Friday, October 22, 2010

The Philosophy of a Young Earth

I want to be clear that I do not think someone who believes in an "old earth" is a heretic deserving of anathemas. I do, however, think that science has hi-jacked the plain reading of Genesis chapter one, and more importantly, science has sneaked into the mind to play the part of philosopher instead of fact finder. Science is an awesome explorer and discoverer, she is a lousy theologian and philosopher.

Most people who hold to an extremely old universe do so because it looks old. We have stars that are billions of light years away. If the universe is young, then we should not be seeing them yet. There are many examples such as this in the natural world that would indicate the ancientness of the universe. Yet, stubborn man that I am, I still believe that this place may be fairly new. I do not believe it because of science. I believe it first because of the Bible, and secondly because the idea of a young earth and universe is as philosophically possible as an old one.

Let's deal today with philosophy and earth age. I want to contend that science cannot, no matter how hard she tries, she cannot tell us how old the universe is. To age something, we have to have a definite starting date. How, I wonder, will science provide this? When did the universe begin? Most scientists, I suspect, believe in a starting point in something like the Big Bang. There may be other competeing theories, but this is the most popular. Think about the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang theory presupposes the eternity of matter. That is, before the Big Bang, there was this massive, massive ball of everything that is that exploded into chunks of what we see now. That explosion starts the clock. That is a reasonable theory.

It is precisely at this point that I think many theologians and Christian philosophers go awry. After hearing the Big Bang theory, they then try to beat the scientist at his own game by exploring whether or not the Big Bang could work. I don't think that is the best way to go about it. I want to deal with the most glaring problem: how did that massive ball of everything begin to exist in the first place? What made it explode? Science cannot answer this for us. At best, science could tell us that it is possible that such a big ball of everything existed. Also, and let this sink in, when science tells us how "old" the universe is, it is really only telling us how long it has been since the Big Bang. The actual age of the universe would have to be infinite. It would have to be eternal. The universe, in this closed, miracleless system, has simply always been. This assertion boggles the mind theologically, philosophically, and yes, even scientifically.

Here is the second thing to think about in this debate: miracles. Do I believe that the universe is governed by unalterable natural laws? No, I do not. I allow for miracles, as do most people I imagine. Once you allow for that, and this is a big point, then there is no reason to reject a young universe creation. If I believe in wizardry, then it should not surprise me if a wizard can conjure a rabbit out of a hat, or a fireball from thin air, or a mouse from his hand. It would be silly of me to try and use science to figure out how old a newly conjured bird would be. It simply will not work. That does not mean that the wizard is being deceptive.

Imagine this, a wizard conjures a rabbit and brings it over to my house and he says, "Look what I made." I say, "OOooo...that is the oldest rabbit I've ever seen! Let me get my tools." So, I begin a scientific medical exam to check out the rabbit and age it. The wizard says, "What are you doing?" I say, "I'm trying to figure out how old this rabbit is." The wizard laughs and says, "Friend, I just conjured him on the way here." And I say, "Well, that is not what my findings are telling me. This rabbit is ten years old at least! Besides, if this rabbit isn't really old, then you deceive me by making it look so old! Why would you make an old rabbit?" I can only imagine that the wizard might respond, "Deceiving you? I just told you I made while on the way. And I made it old because I like rabbits that look like this one. What does old even mean, friend?"

Here are a couple of problems:

1) If you do not believe in wizardry, you will never take the wizard's word for it.
2) If you believe that science explains everything, you won't even bother looking at the wizard's explanation anyway.

So it is the modern presuppositions that get in the way of a young universe. We presuppose it to be old because it looks that way. We also believe that science can explain everything for us. It simply can't. Finally, we also have a hard time swallowing that a book, nearly as old as the world, could possibly be correct on the age of the earth. We don't believe much in miracles or wizards. Besides, those rubes didn't have science. How could they have possibly known how old the universe is? Or why it was made?

Unless, of course, the Maker told them.


Greg Toomey said...

I am glad you wrote this. I spent a good year in a debate via email with an old earth, old universe, evolution believer. I debated him on every one of his points which ended up being a complete and total waste of time. I realized this when we had talked ourselves to the 7th day of creation. On the 7th day a Creationist will see the miracle and might of an almighty God, a complete product in just 6 days. The Evolutionist/old Earth believer will go around with instruments, shovels, chainsaws etc... and they will see the miracle and might of mother nature, a complete product in only 4.4 billion years of spontaneous generation.
The tragedy in all of this is with the pervasiveness of such ideologies within the public school system. I, as a Christian father, must make time most days to un-indoctrinate my own children...

Brad Williams said...

You are welcome, brother!

The thing that bothers me the most is that the debate of origins is not a scientific debate; it is a philosophical/theological one. Science offers facts, sometimes, but all facts have to interpretated through a worldview grid.