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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thoughts On Ken Ham Talks and Creation Science in General

I was going to post a comment on Jon Edmiston's blog post, but my comments went long. So I just decided to turn it in to a post here.

Growing up (especially through Jr. High and High School), I spent a lot of time reading materials and going to conferences/conventions/seminars made available by organizations like ICR and Answers In Genesis. I remember challenging my science teachers on points of evolution and geology, making the arguments (as I understood them) for a young-earth point of view. I don't think I changed many minds back then, but at least I spoke up. Science is about ideas... different ideas being put forth, being tested against observable data, and being either validated (usually only partially and thereby requiring modification/tuning) or rejected.

Some time later - I don't remember when - I was introduced to Reasons to Believe and have gone through a similar process. I have attended a few live events and have read most of the books in their library. I have always been interested in science and I love the idea that there are multiple views and viewpoints for this. You miss a lot if you only choose to see one side of things. I went to public schools all through high school (and have read various popular science books published by non-religious sources, and have watched more than my share of science shows on public television, etc.), so I have been exposed to all three major views; evolutionary science, young earth creationism, and old earth creationism. Side Note: I'm not sure I like these terms, but they are recognized, so I use them here.

I have really enjoyed this journey! It's a blast and the topic really fascinates me! I think the reason I can have fun with it is because I don't believe that it is essential for my salvation that I believe the earth is only a few thousand years old. I believe that it is entirely possible for our planet to be 4.3 billion years old and for God to still be God! I believe that both God's Word and God's Creation consistently reveal His glory. Neither lie to us, deceive us, or mislead us. God is revealed in both!

Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." We can trust what God's creation has to tell us, for it tells us of His glory!

I have really come to respect, appreciate, and accept the work that Reasons to Believe is doing. I find their material very engaging, their science and theology well-reasoned, and their arguments persuasive. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, "Test everything. Hold on to the good." This scripture smacks of the scientific method... Test your ideas, your presuppositions. Do they fit the evidence? Do they fit with what you see? Find the Good and hold on!

With this in mind, these are some issues, or points of interest, that I have when thinking about the young-earth viewpoint...

Why do they trust all other sciences except the ones that contradict their viewpoint? I am guessing that Ken Ham trusts sciences such as medicine (does he ever go to the doctor?), mathematics (does he ever travel and calculate distances and times? Make change?), chemistry (endless applications in every-day life), physics (does he believe in gravity?). I am sure that he has no problem agreeing that man has the ability to reason, explore, think, hypothesize, theorize, test, measure, revise theories as needed, define and explain what we see and observe in these other sciences. I am sure there are a myriad of areas in which Ken Ham has no problems with the science being done. But, for some reason, he believes that we suddenly lose all of our God-given abilities when it comes to sciences such as geology, astronomy, astrophysics, anthropology. He is fine with man's abilities in hundreds of different fields of study, but has major contention and believes that we get it dead-wrong when it comes to this tiny subset of scientific endeavor.

It's like having two people (Mary and Joe) look at a rainbow and identify the colors. Mary lists the colors as "Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet" while Joe says "Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Black". Both observe the rainbow, both use their faculties to reason out and identify the colors. But, Joe is adamant that Mary is wrong about the last color. Why does Joe feel that Mary can correctly reason out and identify the first six colors correctly, but somehow is incompetent to do the same for the last color? Likewise, why is man able to perform so admirably is many, many fields of science and study, yet fail so miserably in a tiny subset?

I realize that Ken Ham attempted to make a distinction between what he calls Observational science and Historical science in his first session. But, all science is based on and progressed through observation. I did not catch the distinction he was trying to make.

Along these lines, in his second session, Ken Ham quotes scientists and states that they estimate there are 10^80 atoms in the universe (at about 29:30 in the second session video). He goes on to use this number to make a point about the great potential for diversity, etc. I presume that these scientists, whom he seems to trust wholeheartedly when it comes to estimating the number of atoms in the universe, were astronomers (or some related field). I also presume that these scientists used the same methods of observation, critical thinking, scientific rigor, scientific tools and techniques, and even the same biases (religious and otherwise) to come to this number as they use to come to conclusions about the age of the universe. Why does Mr. Ham feel so comfortable to accept one number from them but not another?

While I don't dare presume to equate any scientific publication with scripture, this attitude reminds me of Thomas Jefferson and his Bible. (I am speaking to man's attitudes and behaviors, nothing more.) Jefferson felt it appropriate to pick and choose from the material, only keeping the parts that he felt comfortable with or that agreed with his notions. Mr. Ham seems to do the same.

The main thing I see when I read (or hear) material from Answers In Genesis is a fear of age. They equate an old earth with a Godless earth. There is a belief that billions of years proves evolution. Reasons to Believe has many resources showing that, mathematically, 4.3 billions years (the estimated age of earth) is not enough time for evolution to work. Old does not equal evolution.

Ask yourself the question... Would creation be any less miraculous if it began billions of years ago rather than thousands of years ago? Is God not timeless? And why thousands? Why not hundreds? Or tens? Why not only a moment ago?

The answer you may give to that is, "We have documented history going back thousands of years, so those thousands of years must have existed! God couldn't possibly have created everything only moments ago."

Yet, the heavens, which proclaim the work of His hands, seem to be telling us that they are billions of years old. In fact, using the most current technology, the most current science, the universe is determined to be about 13.7 billion years old. With each new measurement this number gets more refined. So, the question becomes, "Does God's creation, which declares His glory and proclaims the work of His hands... lie to us? Are distant stars not really billions of light-years away? Or, was their light created 'in transit'? Why would God create something that would so deliberately and so drastically deceive us? God is not a God of deception. And, since He is perfectly consistent, His creation can not deceive us.

As we make advances in science, this results in a greater understanding of God's creation. Think about medicine... cells, germs, viruses, diseases. Our knowledge of these things increase as we apply the science of medicine. We don't move further and further away from the truth about these things over time. Science brings us greater understanding. That's our image of God being expressed! That's God revealing Himself to us through His creation! Why would it be any different for sciences such as astronomy and anthropology?

Here is a great article that speaks to issues and differences between young-earth and old-earth creationists. It is put out by RTB as a response to a Ken Ham article. Here is another article that addresses points Ken Ham made in his 4th talk.

I would really be interested in hearing your thoughts on this!

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