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>A defence of Young Earth Creationism

>Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is multifaceted. It is a metaphysical framework; a scripturally informed philosophy of nature which includes a scientific model that seeks to evaluate and explain the world. Thus it touches a variety of topics. There are limits in what can be accomplished with a short blog post, but I think that some clarity can be brought to the debate, specifically identifying the source of the conflict and the domain in which the debate needs to occur.

Antagonism to YEC is predominantly philosophical, rooted in naturalism. Opposition to the YEC position is frequently made using suppositions antagonistic to YEC; the proof of error is therefore in the axioms not the conclusions.

YEC has a long history. It has been the predominant position throughout most of the history of the West, until the introduction of uniformitarian interpretations in the 18th and 19th century by the non-catastrophic geologists. These geologists influenced Darwin and although Darwin didn’t publish his theory till the 19th century, evolutionary-like philosophies have a much older history, somewhat similar ideas proposed by some Greek philosophers. And YECists have good company with the likes of scientists such as Kepler, Newton, Pasteur, and Maxwell. But the issue is not a tradition game or a numbers game, it is: Does YEC accurately describe reality?

The underlying reasons for specific YECist concepts are: the rules of logic as applied to the Bible and science, and the grammatical historical hermeneutic applied to the Bible. YECists take most of Genesis to be historical narrative including the creation, fall, and flood. They think that most occurrences of the word “day” in Genesis 1 mean a usual day because of contextual considerations.

YEC touches several fields including theology: hermeneutics, theodicy; philosophy: philosophy of science, logic; science: biology, genetics, palaeontology, astronomy, geology, climate, thermodynamics; information theory; archaeology; history. (Hermeneutics and logic would be better classified as fields that form YEC belief rather than result from it, as mentioned above).

I wish to cover the following about YEC

  • What young earth creationists (YECists) do and do not believe;
  • The nature of evidence and science; and
  • A discussion focusing on a single aspect of YEC: the age of the earth.

What YEC is

YEC can be summarised as follows:

  • The universe is not eternal, it was created by God who is external to the world, self existent, and eternal
  • God created the world in 6 usual days
  • Nature was corrupted by the Fall of Man
  • The earth is about 6000 years old
  • The earth was deluged by a global flood about 4500 years ago
  • The Bible is inerrant and should be interpreted in a straightforward manner (according to genre)

There are several corollaries from this, though the specifics may vary. The creation model includes:

  • Most of the sedimentary layers of rock and enclosed fossils that occur worldwide were formed during the Noachic Flood.
  • The earth likely contained a single continent that broke up during or after the Flood
  • There was a single ice-age caused by the post-Flood climate
  • All land and air animals (of significant size) are descendants of the animals that were on the Ark
  • Man has coexisted with all animals that have ever existed
  • Natural selection (an analogue of artificial selection) occurs
  • Speciation is rapid. It occurs through allelic separation, genetically induced variation, or detrimental mutation (loss of genetic information).
  • There are genetic limits to the amount of speciation, diversification, adaption, or breeding that can occur
  • Information content of the biosphere cannot increase. Matter cannot create information.
  • Information is always the result of an intelligence
  • Loss of information can mean improved fitness within a specific environment, that is loss of function can result in improved likelihood of survival.
  • Lost information cannot be recovered without reintroduction of the same information (save trivial examples) by breeding or design
  • Archaeological artefacts post-date the Flood, which limits their age to a maximum of 4500 years

There are several accusations that are charged against YEC which proponents of YEC do not support or promote; such as

  • God (or Satan) created the fossils in situ as a test of our faith
  • God created things with false appearance of age (this needs qualification)
  • Animals were created how they look now and no new species of animals have developed
  • Entropy was a result of and did not exist before the Fall of Man
  • The earth is flat

On evidence and science

While much could be written in defence of the specific YEC beliefs, discussion can be difficult if foundational issues are not identified.

Modern science was originally a systematised process of categorising our observations to make further inferences and reduce our observations to consistent laws. While hypothesis testing is a usual method, data gathering to create a hypothesis was seen as legitimate. Thus, multiple measurements of the planets led to Kepler proposing elliptical orbits, which could then be further tested. Francis Bacon is frequently credited with formulating the scientific method. Written as:

observation → induction → hypothesis → test hypothesis by experiment → proof/disproof → knowledge

Popper’s falsifiability criterion has had a clarifying influence on the understanding of scientific theories. Therefore negative evidence was seen as disproving a theory whilst positive evidence is merely consistent with a theory, not proof of such.

Notice that Bacon’s definition is necessarily limited to observable phenomena. This is classic operational science (also called empirical science), which helps us infer laws about things that are demonstrable and repeatable. This is an enormously important distinction that frequently goes unrecognised. In contrast, inferences about previous events are not repeatable. This does not mean that the scientific method cannot be employed, rather that it is limited in what it can say.

Consider the science of identifying a criminal via a DNA sample. This science is not being done to discover how DNA binds to itself (i.e. hydrogen bonding), it is attempting to establish an event such as a murder.

So a fragment of the DNA is identified and then matched to a specific person. The samples can be run several times and in several different ways; both the forensic sample and the suspects’ samples. And we can establish that the forensic sample and a suspect sample match. This part of the process is operational science.

However establishing a particular suspect as the murderer is not observable. We cannot do an experiment several times to show that he did indeed murder the victim. Intrinsically it is impossible; the event happened in the past. And even if we establish he is capable of murder, it doesn’t prove he committed this particular murder. This kind of science is called historical science.

It has been claimed that scientists do not discriminate this way when practising science. This may be the case. When one does historical science there is usually an element of operational science as seen in this example (though the converse is not necessarily true). But whether actual scientists discriminate like this is irrelevant to the philosophy of science, what matters is whether this distinction exists. And it clearly exists because a methodology that relies on repeatability cannot be applied to singular past events.

The reason for this discussion is to show that historical science competes with other evidences in a way that operational science does not. If I claim my house is so high, I can invite you to m
easure it. Testimonial evidence doesn’t play a part. We don’t ask a range of people their opinion as to what they think my house height is. 3 measurements by several engineers using differing methods that all agree trump the opinion of a dozen opinions and guesses. This is not the case with historical science.

Returning to our murder investigation with DNA sampling, all we have established is that a suspect shares a DNA fingerprint with a crime scene sample. This may be because it is a limited test, say a portion of DNA with a limited number of polymorphisms. Even if we can be certain the DNA matches by performing adequate sequencing, there may be a identical twin brother we do not know about. Or the DNA may have come from the suspect, but at another time; a meeting earlier in the day. Now I am not trying to imply that DNA testing is inaccurate or inappropriate for criminal investigation, I am illustrating how its use in proving crime is intrinsically different from operational science.

Testimony of others meant little in the height of my house, but it means a great deal in identifying a murderer. Not because murder is more important that house height, but because it is not testable in the way that heights and widths of objects are. A claim that the suspect has a twin brother is a competing claim against the DNA test. A claim that the suspect was seen elsewhere at the time of the murder is a competing claim. A claim that the blood type does not match despite the DNA matching is a competing claim.

Note that competing claims against historical science can be both scientific and non-scientific (eg. testimonial).

Also note that scientific claims do not automatically trump non-scientific claims. The testimony of a thousand witnesses is not overturned by a DNA match just because the latter is scientific. We weigh several competing claims and people will be variously convinced depending on how reliable they regard each piece of evidence.

YEC is a competing claim about the history of the world. It is predominantly a competing claim to the historical sciences of biological macro-evolution, abiogenesis, stellar evolution, and uniformitarian geology.

Some of the YEC disagreement with evolutionary theory is due to consideration of non-scientific fields such as documentary evidence. However much of the disagreement is from a competing but different historical science. For example, consider the age of the earth.

How old is the earth?

YECists claim that the earth is about 6000 years old (though anything below 10000 years would fall into the same range). This is phenomenally different to the uniformitarian geological claim of 4.5 billion years. But note that any usual clock cannot calculate the time since the formation of the earth. We cannot go back, set our stop-watch, and mark off the aeons until now. We are considering a past event (or several past events). Compare this to measuring the time it takes a horse to run 1 km. We can do this measuring the starting and finishing time, and we can do this repeatedly, thus giving us the time (on average) the horse takes. For this we observe established clocks.

For past events we need to establish a historical clock, say radiometric-dating. Experiments can determine the amount of various isotopes of uranium and lead in a particular sample. One can do this part of the experiment over and over. We can satisfy ourselves to the limits of experimental accuracy that the sample contains a certain amount of uranium. This part of the investigation is operational science. All parties generally agree on the number of atoms identified in the sample and their ratio.

This ratio is then keyed into a formula based on a specific theory with a variety of assumptions to get a date for the formation of the mineral it was derived from. Now the theory is radioactive decay, which is reasonably well established, and an assumption is, say, no daughter isotope was present when the mineral formed.

The problem is that these calculations do not always give the answers that are thought to be correct (as established by other historical clocks or underlying evolutionary theory); so sub-theories are added, such as leaching of isotopes, addition of isotopes, incomplete melting at time of formation of mineral in rock. Creationists have also suggested a modification to the theory: the variation of decay half-life, though this modification is often disparaged.

Rather than discuss the merits of these sub-theories or, if you prefer, alteration of assumptions (all of which are reasonable); I would simply like to note that since radiometric dating is a historical science, there are competing claims.

There is the competing documentary claim, that the world was created 6000 years ago according to the Bible. This is a claim that YECists take seriously, much like the testimony of someone who witnessed an event. But documentary evidence is not restricted to the Bible. A variety of cultures have given an age of the earth much less than 4.5 billion years and more in keeping with the biblical figure, such as the Mayans and the Greeks. This particular competing claim is less convincing to agnostics and some theists, including some Christians. There are, however, other documentary claims and historical scientific claims that are worth mentioning.

Staying with radiometric dating, we have reliable documentary evidence for the age of some volcanic episodes. It so happens that rocks from lava flows within recent history that we know the real age of (via operational science) are consistently dated much older by radiometric dating, frequently hundreds of thousands of years or older. Explanations are offered up as to why this is the case, but the greater point is the model is reliably incorrect; it doesn’t matter how good this theory is or should be, the fact is the model doesn’t work.

If radiometric dating cannot get dates correct when we do know the true age, why should we trust it when we don’t know the true age?

We also have competing scientific claims. Radiometric dating is not the only historical clock. There are a large number of clocks. And even radiometric clocks vary depending on the isotope used.

Historical clocks often give maximum ages. This does not mean that the calculated age is the actual age, rather given the most favourable assumptions this is the longest a particular process has been going on. In constructing a clock based on sodium in the ocean, a maximum age would be established by assuming no sodium in the ocean when it formed, the lowest reasonable estimate for sodium influx, the highest reasonable estimate for sodium outflux, with the current concentration identified by measurements of salinity. The maximum age identified may not equal the true age, as the ocean may have started somewhat salty for example.

Within radiometric dating we have carbon dating competing with metal dating. Pretty much all carbon containing materials that have been tested contain carbon-14. This places an upper bound on their age. This includes diamonds embedded in rock supposedly millions of years old.

Other historical clocks include: diffusion rates of helium; decay of the magnetic field; decay of DNA and protein from dead organisms; elements in the ocean; recession of the moon, starlight travel from distant stars.

Objections can be raised against these other clocks (though the carbon-14 data is hard to surmount), but this is hardly the point. The point is that there are competing claims here. Radiometric dating of metals is favoured by the evolutionists because it gives a time frame needed for evolution. But it is one piece of historical scientific evidence. One person may find it convincing, but with so much riding against it, it is not unreasonable to weigh the other evidences heavier.

Summary

YEC is a worldview. It recognises a variety of evidences. It clearly understands the difference between operational and historical science
. YECists do not dispute any significant operational scientific finding. Investigating past events is philosophically distinct from investigating repeatable events and YEC views past events differently, and in a way that I think makes more sense of the data.

YEC theory on the age of the earth is more parsimonious. It is consistent with much of the documentary evidence. It is also consistent with many of the historical scientific clocks. Modifications to the starting conditions and rates give ages consistent with a young earth, including radio-carbon. Radio-dates of metals less so, but these are known to be inaccurate, and YEC proposals concerning rates of decay may resolve other well recognised difficulties of radiometric dating. Ancient earth theory is unable to easily reconcile non-radiometric clocks or even radio-carbon clocks.


Thanks to Paladin and AndyM for their suggestions.

  1. Starwind
    2009 August 14 at 10:54

    An informative summary, less specific than I personally would have preferred, but I understand the limitations.
    As we’ve previously discussed, I still can’t adequately reconcile either YEC or OEC to Gen 1 & 2, which I believe to be a true and literal creation account.
    YEC theory on the age of the earth … is consistent with much of the documentary evidence … is also consistent with many of the historical scientific clocks.
    Could you kindly cite the specific documentary evidence and historical scientific clocks you have in mind? Preferably links to detailed papers, else titles of articles/books? I’m looking for the ‘subset’ of YEC science that, in your opinion, is the “best fit” (even if imperfect) that reconciles Gen 1 & 2 to perceived ages of the universe and earth with its varied biology and geology.
    Additionally, it would be helpful if you would identify YEC science theories (if any) that you find discredited and not worth persuing, and identify any passages of Gen 1 & 2 which you find presently unreconciled or not addressed with any prevailing YEC science theory?
    I’m really not interested in arguing either view, I’m just fact finding to see what I may have overlooked, and asking your guidance as to the “best” (most consistent and supported) YEC science theories.

  2. 2009 August 14 at 17:27

    I like it!
    A very good read. Nice work, mate. :)

  3. Ken
    2009 August 15 at 03:34

    I showed in my article “Historical science” why you are so wrong about “historical science.” This is purely a creationist smokescreen – with very few real scientists bothering to make the distinction. In fact, so called “historical science” can have some advantages over laboratory or “experimental science” as I describe in my article.
    For a discussion of this differentiation from the point of view of the philosophy of science have a look at Carol Cleland’s papers “Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method and “ Methodological and Epistemic Differences Between Historical Science and Experimental Science.

  4. 2009 August 15 at 07:51

    Thanks Starwind. There were issues in what I could cover, and the audience I was writing for. I decided to stay aware from scriptural issues, ie. defence of interpretation, and just list the basic viewpoint. I wanted to focus on issues of underlying preconceptions and the nature of science; this is where I see the real issue is. I will try and sort out links at a later stage.
    Grant Dexter, thanks.

  5. 2009 August 15 at 07:58

    Hi Ken, I read your response to my post that you blogged a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t get around to commenting there. I understand that scientists may not do science, but my approach is philosophical, not pragmatic. I am seeking to describe and apply the basic principles of science. And I said as much in this post.
    In your post I thought you had not correctly identified the distinction; you identify “historical” with “past”

    And even experimental laboratory science can, in essence, be historical. I can investigate the mechanism of a chemical reaction under controlled conditions in the laboraoty. But I don’t directly observe the mechanism. I measure the historical effects of the reaction by analysing the reaction products and determining changes in concentrations after the reaction event.

    but the distinction is about repeatability. Kepler’s experiments are operational science though they happened a long time ago; modern forensics is in the present, but is historical in that it is establishing a previous 1 time event.
    I wrote this particular post for Vox Popoli and have cross posted it on my blog, you can read responses both for and against what I have written there.

  6. Starwind
    2009 August 15 at 22:30

    bethyada:
    I will try and sort out links at a later stage.
    Guess we’ll leave it for another “yom” then… :)

  7. Ken
    2009 August 16 at 00:16

    My post discussed repeatability. As you will see if you read Carol Cleland’s papers that “repeatability” is often misunderstood by lay persons. And this goes back to a naive interpretation of Popper’s “falsifiability”. Rather than repeating an experiment multiple times, a researcher is often probing around the edges, refusing to accept the one-off result of a previous experiment, etc. Experiments are hardly ever a simple repeat of previous attempts.
    Reject my post if you wish – but have a read of Cleland’s papers.
    By the way, your comments on radiometric dating are way off beam. The comment on data lava flows is a well known creationist scam of inappropriate application of the K/Ar technique. A very dishonest story there.

  8. 2009 August 16 at 06:18

    Ken, I read Cleland’s paper. While I disagree with a few aspects of it, essentially she agrees with what I am saying

    In summary, Gee (1999) was correct about there being fundamental differences in the methodology used by historical and experimental scientists. Experimental scientists focus on a single (sometimes complex) hypothesis, and the main research activity consists in repeatedly bringing about the test conditions specified by the hypothesis, and controlling for extraneous factors that might produce false positives and false negatives. Historical scientists, in contrast, usually concentrate on formulating multiple competing hypotheses about particular past events. Their main research efforts are directed at searching for a smoking gun, a trace that sets apart one hypothesis as providing a better causal explanation (for the observed traces) than do the others. These differences in methodology do not, however, support the claim that historical science is methodologically inferior, because they reflect an objective difference in the evidential relations at the disposal of historical and experimental researchers for evaluating their hypotheses.

    Her contention in the paper is not that the distinction does not exist, she acknowledges there is a difference and uses a similar analogy to myself, a crime scene.
    What Cleland labours at is the claim that historical science is inferior. She disputes that it is in fact inferior. But I am not claiming it is inferior, I am claiming the methodologies are philosophically different, and Cleland says the same.

    When it comes to testing hypotheses, historical science is not inferior to classical experimental science. Traditional accounts of the scientific method cannot be used to support the superiority of experimental work. Furthermore, the differences in methodology that actually do exist between historical and experimental science are keyed to an objective and pervasive feature of nature, the asymmetry of overdetermination.

  9. Ken
    2009 August 17 at 01:26

    Good to see you read the papers. However, you interpret Cleland wrongly here. She is not claiming any philosophical difference at all – and certainly not the type promoted by creationists. You are quote mining inappropriately to support your belief.
    She is in fact say that the asymmetry of overdetermination can work to give more reliable conclusions in “historical science” than in “experimental science.”
    This can be understood practically by the fact that when we are considering historical events we often have the advantage of several converging methods. Thus, determining things like the age of the earth can be so reliable because the value is determined by a number of methods which reinforce the final conclusion. Often we don’t have that advantage in a laboratory experiment.
    Cleland doesn’t support you claims by any means.

  10. 2009 August 17 at 13:21

    Ken, I am not quote mining. You linked to the paper. I included 2 substantial quotes from your paper. And they are in context.
    Cleland both says that the methodology is different for the 2 sciences. She states that Gee is correct in his assessment they are different. She takes Gee to task for the claim historical science is inferior.
    The comment you allude to means that Cleland thinks that conclusions of historical science are at times more reliable that operational science. Whether she is correct in this is irrelevant to the discussion. The fact that she is even comparing them shows that there are differences between the 2.
    When I posted this at Vox Popoli there was much disagreement to YEC, but no dispute about the distinction of the sciences by the many non-YECists and atheists who commented.

  11. Ken
    2009 August 17 at 23:31

    Methodology differences – yes. (As there are between different branches of science).
    But not philosophical differences. Not epistemological differences. Basing theory on evidence and testing against reality is the scientific epistemology used in both cases.
    it is dishonest for the creationists to claim that mythology and theological invention can be given the same “authority” as evidence based science.
    One of the most dishonest parts of this is the creationist lies about science – such as your example of K/Ar dating and recent lava flows – a well known lie.

  12. Starwind
    2009 August 18 at 01:46

    Ken:
    it is dishonest for the creationists to claim that mythology and theological invention can be given the same “authority” as evidence based science.
    And when the “evidence based science” proves wrong (as evidenced by hoaxes, political agendas, experimental and observational error, as well as theory flaws) its authority is arguably no better than mythology and invention. For example, the history of Darwinian evolution theory and claims being so reliably wrong most of the time, demonstrates how unauthoritative some “science” can get. There is also “anthropological global warming” and “multi-verse cosmology” as examples of questionable psuedo-science carried to highly inventive, if not mythological, extremes.
    One of the most dishonest parts of this is the creationist lies about science
    It is one thing to vociferously argue your own point of view, but quite another to accuse people (as a group) who disagree with your view as lying, i.e. conscious intent to deceive. Many people are merely mistaken. But some people do lie, even scientists and atheists have been known to lie, to even (gasp!) fabricate data and spin findings all for the benefit of institutional, governmental or even commercial program participants. To the extent their lies are no different than “creationist lies” (assuming you in fact have evidence of creationist conscious intent to deceive), on what basis do we onlookers to this discussion give any greater credence to your accusations?

  13. Ken
    2009 August 18 at 22:51

    This is the problem with the apologetics ghetto (The ghetto of apologetics “science”). It’s self-contained, with its own mythology and distorted filtering of reality. Hence the comments you make about evolutionary science and science in general.
    Humanity has benefited so much from science, and has so much to lose if these sort of apologetics attacks bore fruit, that most people would look at your claims with horror.
    I guess this is where the phrase “lying for Jesus’ comes from.
    Again and again, when I look at the apologetics claims, I find outright distortions. Your claims on “historical science” and dating lava flows are just 2 examples. In many cases the lies are even more obvious – of the order “black is white.”
    So, no, I have no compunction accusing these sort of creationists of lying.

  14. Starwind
    2009 August 19 at 04:31

    Ken:
    (part 1)
    Again and again, when I look at the apologetics claims, I find outright distortions. Your claims on “historical science” and dating lava flows are just 2 examples. In many cases the lies are even more obvious – of the order “black is white.”
    I made no claims on “historical science” and dating lava flows. You plainly don’t read and analyze carefully enough to even know to whom you’re responding, let alone to what you’re responding.
    Hence the comments you make about evolutionary science and science in general.
    A case in point. My comments were not about “evolutionary science and science in general”. My exact words were “the history of Darwinian evolution theory and claims”, “anthropological global warming” and “multi-verse cosmology” as specific examples of “highly inventive” pseudo-science.
    This is the problem with the apologetics ghetto (The ghetto of apologetics “science”). It’s self-contained, with its own mythology and distorted filtering of reality.
    Yes, an unsubstantiated rant against lying creationists and ID. You hate Christians. We get it. Who knew?
    Humanity has benefited so much from science
    No, humanity has benefitted from engineering and technology. These are not the same as “science”. Humanity has not benefitted one wit from “Darwinian science”, nor from “multi-verse cosmology” nor from the study of “anthropological global warming”. Humanity has benefitted from inventors creating telephones, light bulbs, and personal computers (“science” had a minimal role in the development of the solid state device – though it was largely an engineering trial and error effort).

  15. Starwind
    2009 August 19 at 04:32

    Ken:
    (part 2)
    [Humanity] has so much to lose if these sort of apologetics attacks bore fruit
    Golly. biology teacher’s might have to teach the flaws in Darwinian theory (just like real science teachers do), Pharmaceutical companies might try developing resistant antibotics that random mutation can’t overcome (as per Behe), the IPCC might be forced to develop models that actually predict correctly, and money might be granted to explore the cosmology of the universe we have instead of the imagined infinity of parallel universes that we’ll never be able to test, let alone have.
    So, no, I have no compunction accusing these sort of creationists of lying.
    And even less compunction to demonstrate how their lies are so much worse than the documented lies of “scientists” like say, Friedhelm Herrmann and Marion Brach, Hwang Woo-Suk, Kazunari Taira. And well just set aside irreproducible results (like “cold fusion”) and plagarism, and “just so” stories.
    And before you argue those were exceptions, consider Liar! Liar! Scientists are not quite as honest as might be hoped

    The meta-analysis suggested that 14% of researchers in the underlying studies had seen their colleagues fabricate, falsify, alter or modify data. If the question was posed in more general terms, such as running experiments with deficient methods, failing to report deficiencies or misrepresenting data, the straight average suggested that 46% of researchers had seen others get up to such shenanigans.

    Being charitable, I’ll grant you that some creationists lie just like some scientists lie. lying is an interdisciplinary problem. It isn’t found among creationists and Christians only, now is it. But your own “intellectual honesty” couldn’t bring you to a balanced assessment could it.
    That refusal to be honest yourself, as well as be accurate in your analysis (rants really) is why you have no credibility, at this point forward.

  16. Starwind
    2009 August 19 at 04:57

    Ken:
    (part 3)
    Conversely, humanity has benefitted greatly from the science of genetic modification of soybeans, corn, rice, and soon wheat, as well as the science of weather forecasting. These disciplines are largely driven by pure scientists as opposed to engineers or inventors.

  17. Ken
    2009 August 20 at 00:14

    Hmm – I though I was debating with bethyada – didn’t realise that Starwind had intervened. That possibly explains the change of tone (Don’t some people get angry on the internet).
    (This Haloscan commenting system does seem to minimise identification of commenters).
    My comments on the K/Ar dating of lava flows and distorted analysis of “historical” science were of course directed at bethyada and relate to the above post.
    Still, Starwind is expressing a common hatred of science that creationist seem to have. And isn’t it interesting that it’s not just about evolution, extending to things like climate change, astronomy/cosmology, and the history of and nature of science.

  18. Starwind
    2009 August 20 at 03:17

    Ken:
    Hmm – I though I was debating with bethyada – didn’t realise that Starwind had intervened. That possibly explains the change of tone (Don’t some people get angry on the internet).
    Though you tacitly realize being corrected, you still don’t realize your errors of reading comprehension. One would think at this juncture you’d go back and double check your responses to my points.
    Still, Starwind is expressing a common hatred of science that creationist seem to have.
    You’re still deflecting behind broadbrush distortions. My criticisms were of three examples of pseudo-science which engage in the same “inventions and mythology” you accuse creationism. I never implied I hated science the discipline (but you knew that). I said some scientists (the disciples, not the discipline) lie, and I cited a study to that effect (but you knew that too). I further corrected your misattribution of engineering and technology’s benefits to humanity, and gave two contrasting examples of humanity’s benefits attributable to actual science and not engineering (but you knew all that as well).
    And isn’t it interesting that it’s not just about evolution, extending to things like climate change, astronomy/cosmology, and the history of and nature of science.
    What is interesting is I didn’t generalize “evolution”, “cosmology”, or the “history of and nature of science”. I was much narrower and specific, wasn’t I. And I never mentioned “climate change” or “astronomy”, did I. You’re oh for 5.
    The dishonesty and distortion on this thread is found only in your posts, Ken. But then if you didn’t distort, you’d have no argument at all, would you.

  19. 2009 August 20 at 11:40

    Methodology differences – yes. (As there are between different branches of science). But not philosophical differences. Not epistemological differences.
    Ken, you have gone from denying there are any real differences, to claiming there are but they are not philosophical and are no different than usual differences between the branches of science.
    This is not what Cleland or Gee claim. We can argue about what people mean by the word “philosophy” but my example in my post makes it clear what is meant, I even use a similar example to Cleland as it turned out. Further, Cleland groups branches of science into either operational or historical, and she identifies that there are fundamental differences between the 2 groupings.
    That is: the broad method of doing science is different. One is repeatable observations, one is creating a plausible scenario.
    One can reasonably describe the ways science is done as the philosophy of science, Cleland wasn’t reporting a specific experiment in her paper, she was defending historical science methodology; thus her paper was philosophical.
    But whether you accept the word “philosophical” is not the point, what is, is that I described something similar to Cleland’s paper (which you claim to agree with) but is in distinction to your comments here and the post on your blog.
    Your responses to my post, my comments and to Starwind suggests to me that you do not read the arguments fully. You grab one statement and respond with an irrelevant comment and an accusation of lying to boot, but no specific example of a lie and why you consider it such. Starwind’s comments were in part to say that lying is about deception. The fact someone believes something you happen to think is false does not make them a liar. Them agreeing with you but claiming other is what makes them a liar.

  20. Ken
    2009 August 20 at 22:02

    Bethyada – you are quote mining and misrepresenting. Have a proper read of Cleland and try to understand what she says about repetition of experiments – and naive falsifiability. And try to understand the “fundamental” difference she talks about – the “asymmetry of over determination.” This completely undermines your suggestion that historical science is unreliable and bears no more credibility that mythology – biblical or otherwise.
    I think Cleland is correct – it certainly lines up with my own experience of scientific research. Whatever the different methodologies used in the different branches of science (and they can be divided in all sorts of ways besides temporal) the basic scientific epistemology is the same. Reliance on evidence and validating against reality. Biblical mythology does nothing like that.

  21. 2009 August 21 at 09:47

    This completely undermines your suggestion that historical science is unreliable and bears no more credibility that mythology – biblical or otherwise.
    But I don’t think historical science is intrinsically unreliable. Nor did I say as much.
    Our disagreement is over whether we give credibility to the Bible. Even if you don’t give the Bible credibility, you likely give credibility to other forms of documentary evidence. If DNA placed a man at the scene of a murder would you ignore all testimony that he was elsewhere? by everyone? including people you consider reliable?

  22. Ken
    2009 August 23 at 00:55

    Of course not. But that’s hardly the same.
    What we have here is people who deny the evidence of things like the age of the earth. A conclusion well supported by converging evidence from several streams. And then claiming reliability for one particular religious mythology.
    And in the process having to tell lies about things like dating methods, K/Ar dating of lava flows and a whole host of things creationists have adopted as mantra.
    The bible can of course have no more credibility than what it is. The same credibility as any collection off any religious mythological stories and parables. We can appreciate these for literary and similar reasons. But they just don’t compare with scientific investigations – do they?”

  23. 2009 August 23 at 04:59

    Of course not. But that’s hardly the same.
    It is exactly the same principle. Both are comparing historical scientific evidence to documentary evidence.
    What we have in the case of the courts is good historical scientific evidence being overturned by more reliable documentary (testimonial) evidence.
    What we have in the case of the age of the earth is historical scientific evidence being compared to documentary evidence. The difference between this and the court scenario is not one of category, it is one of reliability. You think the 2 scenarios are different because you weigh the historical scientific evidence for the age of the earth very heavily. You weigh the documentary evidence (the Bible) extremely lightly. So in one case you come out of the side of the witnesses, and the other on the side of historical science. This does not surprise me. But the important issue is that the difference is one of reliability, not one of category.

  24. Ken
    2009 August 24 at 00:17

    Who said the scientific evidence was overturned? In a case like this both pieces of evidence must be considered. We all now the problems with personal testimony – people very often see what they want to see. Different witnesses will swear they say different things. DNA evidence can also be compromised by collection techniques, sample integrity, etc. (Even though the DNA signature itself may be incredibly reliable).
    Mature adults in a jury must weigh each piece of evidence, test its reliability.
    When it comes to the age of the earth we have a large number of strands of evidence. We can test the reliability of each. (And we can check for things like sample contamination – as in the K/Ar scam you use).
    And furthermore we can make a reliable inference of the age, make predictions from this and test for these predictions in the present day world. We obtain our evidence from reality and we test the resulting knowledge against reality. An extremely reliable and powerful method – which as a member of today’s society you rely on every day.
    The “documentary evidence” of the bible, let’s face it, is what ideologically motivated people want to read into it. And different adherents to that document make different conclusions from that document. The predictions from these inferences just don’t stand up to testing against reality. Therefore they cannot provide a reliable method of drawing conclusions against reality.
    The test I always ask people to think of is this: You (presumably) have no real problems boarding a plane built on science and engineering using these methods. The pilots also use scientifically based techniques. But would you board a plane built using only on biblical teachings?

  25. Starwind
    2009 August 24 at 15:19

    Ken:
    When it comes to the age of the earth we have a large number of strands of evidence. We can test the reliability of each. (And we can check for things like sample contamination – as in the K/Ar scam you use).
    And likewise, when it comes to the bible’s historical statements, archeaology and paleolithography provide us with a large number of strands of evidence for its authenticity. We can test the reliability of each historical statement in the bible.
    The “documentary evidence” of the bible, let’s face it, is what ideologically motivated people want to read into it.
    And that would include ideologically motivated people such as yourself who would read “mythology” into all of it without honest recognition of is historical accuracy.
    Given your past distortions/mistakes, you should not be given a ‘by’ on this issue. Substantiate your claims of “historical error” in the bible with evidence (more than your personal rants). Demonstrate from evidenciary facts that historically “The bible can of course have no more credibility than what it is. The same credibility as any collection off any religious mythological stories and parables.” Prove the bible has no historical credibility, and is only mythological stories and parables.
    But would you board a plane built using only on biblical teachings?
    If the bible actally gave a “blueprint” for an airplane, and I was convinced that blue print was followed, then yes I would.
    The bible has several different contexts: Literal, figurative, allegorical, symbolic, spiritual, physical, historical, and prophetic.
    The YEC/OEC debate is about Gen 1 being treated as an historical context. Bethyada and I agree it is historical, though some believe Gen 1 to be figurative.
    But the track record is confirmation of the bible’s historical record when the archealogical record speaks, otherwise non-confirmation, but todate there has been no disconfirmation.
    Further, confirmation of the bible’s prophetic track record affirms (for those of who have faith in God) that the entire bible is authentically of God’s inspiration, and hence although Gen 1 is unproven, bethyada and I believe that it too is authentically correct history, if we can a) understand correctly its language and b) obtain correct scientific evidence.

  26. Ken
    2009 August 24 at 23:06

    Of course, the onus of proof falls on those making the claim. If you want to advance an hypothesis that something about the bible describes a feature of reality accurately – do so. Then test it against reality.
    To do this you will have to use scientific epistemological techniques. These, for instance, produce data for the age of the earth – within a certain specified range 4.7 billion years plus or minus a relatively small amount. If the hypothesis you have extracted from your “holy book” doesn’t match up – it is wrong. That simple.
    It is dishonest then to whine about things like problems with methodology – especially when, as in the case of the K/Ar dating of lava flows – techniques have been falsely manipulated. We are quite aware of when sampling and other problems can create anomalies – and take these into account.

  27. Starwind
    2009 August 24 at 23:36

    Ken:
    If the hypothesis you have extracted from your “holy book” doesn’t match up – it is wrong. That simple.
    Unlike bethyada, I am an Old Earth Creationist. I’m inclined to read the Gen 1 Hebrew as a creation account spanning 6 “ages”, not 24-hour days. That the Hebrew of Gen 1 & 2 (as we presently understand the usage and meanings of archaic words some 4-5 thousands of years old) is not reconciled with either a Young or Old interpretation remains the subject of much linguistic and paleolithographic debate. But I personally have no difficulty whatsoever in considering that the earth may be 4.7 billion years old, in a universe 13.5 billion years old. The scientific debate for me pivots on precisely how old, what was the sequence of development, and what is the irrefutable evidence for same, none of which have you supplied in your rants.
    You, OTOH have positioned yourself as dismissing the bible as entirely mythological and of no historical accuracy. That is an uninformed (or deliberately distorted) myth on your part. Neither bethyada nor I (nor most lurkers, likley) accept such a one-dimensional uninformed viewpoint as yours.
    You are now asked a second time for evidence of your assertion the bible has no historical credibility, and is only mythological stories and parables.

  28. Ken
    2009 August 25 at 02:30

    Starwind – you want evidence for the age and evolution of the earth? I wasn’t aware of that. But a little search on the internet will provide you with plenty of that – don’t rely on me in a comments section of a blog to provide. But it is fascinating reading.
    However, I don’t think you disagree with me on that age. You in fact are accepting my point that the bible is unreliable on that fact. And how could it not be?
    No – I don’t think the bible, or any similar document, is entirely unreliable historically. Although it’s pretty obvious it just couldn’t be reliable when it comes to events well before humans evolved or developed the technology required for considering the question properly.
    However, even with simple historical events occurring over the last few thousand years one would only use the bible as one source of data for historical considerations. It’s pretty clear that some of its content just doesn’t line up with real happenings. But that is to be expected from such a document, considering its nature.

  29. Starwind
    2009 August 25 at 03:36

    Ken:
    You in fact are accepting my point that the bible is unreliable on that fact. And how could it not be?
    No. You again have totally missed the point. There is a possible interpretation of the archaic Hebrew of Gen 1 that the creation account is 6 “ages”, not 6 “days”, and in 6 “ages”, yes 4.7 or 13.5 billion years of creation can possibly be reconciled with what we observe, if we actually had irrefutable understanding of the cosmologic, geologic and biologic records.
    But there are questions, large questions, both in the biblical Hebrew and in the scientific observations, just setting aside accusations of “lying”, accusations in which scientists are just as culpable.
    One of bethyada’s points was that the presumption of scientific veracity is in fact an a priori worldview that the Bible couldn’t possibly be right because its “myth”. And yet here you are admitting, well maybe it isn’t entirely myth, perhaps it got some things right.
    Although it’s pretty obvious it just couldn’t be reliable when it comes to events well before humans evolved or developed the technology required for considering the question properly.
    Well, unless of course there really is a God who explained to Moses what happened, and Moses wrote it down, and assuming of course we can understand what Moses wrote. And as previously explained, there is confirmatory evidence for God and His revelations, that evidence being fulflled biblical prophecy.
    No – I don’t think the bible, or any similar document, is entirely unreliable historically.
    Then be more honest that there is an evidenciary basis for extrapolating the accuracy of the biblical accounts to Gen 1 & 2, and desist with the ‘creationists are lying’ and the Bible has “no more credibility than … religious mythological stories and parables” – you come across as intellectually dishonest and uninformed, at best.
    It’s pretty clear that some of its content just doesn’t line up with real happenings.
    Well if you mean it doesn’t contain star charts, periodic table of elements, and blueprints for airplanes, yeah it’s silent on those real happenings. OTOH, it lined up a “real” beginning from “nothing” to the universe long before science figured it out, didn’t it.

  30. 2009 August 25 at 09:54

    Who said the scientific evidence was overturned? In a case like this both pieces of evidence must be considered. We all now the problems with personal testimony – people very often see what they want to see. Different witnesses will swear they say different things. DNA evidence can also be compromised by collection techniques, sample integrity, etc. (Even though the DNA signature itself may be incredibly reliable).
    Overturned, overruled, less reliable; the point is we agree that historical evidence, while often reliable, can be challenged by testimony. If we weigh the testimony strongly, ie. a reliable witness, then we may say the DNA evidence does not convict, perhaps there is an issue with the DNA (such as your options), but even if we do not know what is suboptimal about DNA evidence in a particular case, we are able to say that we find the testimony reliable such that we value the conclusions of the person more than the historical science, in this particular case. Of course, in another case we may find the witness unreliable and go with the DNA evidence. The point is that historical evidence can be theoretically challenged by testimonial (documentary) evidence, and vice versa. We go with the evidence that seems most reliable or most consistent.
    Mature adults in a jury must weigh each piece of evidence, test its reliability.
    Exactly.

  31. 2009 August 25 at 09:55

    When it comes to the age of the earth we have a large number of strands of evidence. We can test the reliability of each. (And we can check for things like sample contamination – as in the K/Ar scam you use).
    Yes we do have evidence for an old age, and that evidence is convincing to you. But documentary evidence can challenge that evidence. Now you don’t find the biblical evidence strong, but other people do, for various reasons. Other historical scientific evidence can also challenge metal radio-metric dating.
    The “documentary evidence” of the bible, let’s face it, is what ideologically motivated people want to read into it. And different adherents to that document make different conclusions from that document. The predictions from these inferences just don’t stand up to testing against reality. Therefore they cannot provide a reliable method of drawing conclusions against reality.
    You are getting ahead of yourself. It is clear to me you find radiometric dating reliable and biblical testimony unreliable. The point I have been trying to make is that historical science is categorically different to operational science. Operational science is not challenged by documentary evidence in the same way historical science potentially can be. We don’t accept a witness in court saying I think that water boils at 80 *C. Testimonial evidence for the boiling point of water doesn’t challenge operational science.
    The test I always ask people to think of is this: You (presumably) have no real problems boarding a plane built on science and engineering using these methods. The pilots also use scientifically based techniques. But would you board a plane built using only on biblical teachings?
    And here you conflate operational science with historical science. But my trust in the ability of lasers to work does not change even if the (historical) scientific evidence for the date of the foundation of the Incan empire changes every year as more artefacts are uncovered.

  32. Ken
    2009 August 25 at 22:13

    Ah, back to the mantra of “historical” science. Bit pathetic isn’t it?
    Instead of trying to dismiss “historical” science – which as Cleland pointed out can have the advantage of many strands of evidence converging, why don’t you argue for the reliability of “documentary evidence.” Just what documentary evidence, personal testimony, could there have been 4.7 billion years ago during the formation of the earth and our solar system?

  33. 2009 August 26 at 10:33

    Ken, we are doing circles here at I think I have done my dash for the time being.
    You have constantly misquoted or misunderstood my position. I do not think that historical science is intrinsically worthy of dismissal. As I have said in my post, and in the comments, and as Cleland has said also, there are fundamental differences between operational and historical science. Cleland happens to think historical science has some benefits over operational science. I don’t necessarily agree with that position, but I think that historical science is philosophically valid. I think operational and historical science approach different types of questions, so it cannot be said it is better to use one than the other, they cannot both be used on the same question, they answer different questions. Any strengths or weaknesses these types of science have intrinsic to them.
    You have also agreed that testimonial (documentary) evidence can challenge historical science in principle, as seen in the court examples above. So the question is the reliability of both the historical science and the documentary evidence in any particular situation. If the documentary evidence is strong we go with that, if the historical science is strong we go with that.

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