Moving on to the last installment, I want to focus on the harm done by Young Earth Creation Science. I have already discussed in the earlier series why YEC is not required (and is in fact contradicted by) the Bible. I have also summarized the evidence and the expert opinion of scientist that YEC is simply false.
The harm of YEC arises as an inevitable result of the combination of the first two problems. What happens when you embrace an idea that is demonstrably false? What happens when you insist that believing this false idea is the litmus test of Christianity?
As an illustration, I’d like to refer to the history of Glenn Morton. Morton, which you can find here: http://home.entouch.net/dmd/gstory.htm. Moron was a geophysicist employed by a seismic company working for Atlantic Richfield. He was also a Creation Scientist who published regularly in the Creation Research Society Quarterly and had frequent meetings with the members of the Institute for Creation Research. He also employed a number of the graduates of ICR’s graduate school of the sciences.
Morton began to become aware of problems with the geologic data that flatly contradicted Young Earth Creationism. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve these problems, he published a paper called “Geologic Challenges to a Young-earth” in which he solicited the help of other Creation Scientists in resolving these problems. The reaction was chilly.
Quoting Morton “Here is a list of what young-earthers have called me in response to my data: ‘an apostate,'(Humphreys) ‘a heretic'(Jim Bell although he later apologised like the gentleman he is) ‘a compromiser'(Henry Morris) “absurd”, “naive”, “compromising”, “abysmally ignorant”, “sloppy”, “reckless disregard”, “extremely inaccurate”, “misleading”, “tomfoolery” and “intentionally deceitful”(John Woodmorappe) ‘like your father, Satan’ (Carl R. Froede–I am proud to have this one because Jesus was once said to have been of satan also.) ‘your loyality and commitment to Jesus Christ is shaky or just not truly genuine’ (John Baumgardner 12-24-99 [Merry Christmas]) “[I] have secretly entertained suspicions of a Trojan horse roaming behind the lines…” Royal Truman 12-28-99”
Morton conducted an informal poll of his friends who had graduated from the ICR program and had worked in the oil industry and asked this question: “From your oil industry experience, did any fact that you were taught at ICR, which challenged current geological thinking, turn out in the long run to be true?”
Here is how he describes the reaction. “One man, Steve Robertson, who worked for Shell grew real silent on the phone, sighed and softly said ‘No!’ A very close friend that I had hired at Arco, after hearing the question, exclaimed, “Wait a minute. There has to be one!” But he could not name one. I can not name one. No one else could either. One man I could not reach, to ask that question, had a crisis of faith about two years after coming into the oil industry. I do not know what his spiritual state is now but he was in bad shape the last time I talked to him.”
And Morton had a crisis of faith himself. He very nearly became an atheist. Not because he began to disbelieve in God per se, but because Young Earth Creationist had told him that there were only two alternatives: be a Young Earth Creationist, or be an atheist. Since the facts convinced him that Young Earth Creationism was false (as they will anyone who approached them objectively), he supposed that atheism was the only alternative. A book on Old-Earth Creationism revived his faith.
From this story (and you can read a collection of similar testimonies here: http://www.answersincreation.org/testimony.htm) , we begin to see several of the harms of Young Earth Creationism.
1. Because it is false, and associated with God and Christianity, it made belief in God and Christianity seem
2. Because it associates science with deep personal beliefs, YEC Scientists became accusatory, hateful and angry when presented with simple facts which contradicted it.
So there we have lack of faith, anger and hatred.
Elaborating a bit on YEC’s effect on faith, we have to consider, not merely the Christians who will lose their faith when they discover YEC isn’t true. We also have to consider the non-believers who will never even consider Christianity because it is associated with a theory that is so obviously false and absurd.
Let’s examine another of the fruits of Young Earth Creationism. Because its proponents have so much invested in it (their entire religious framework), they are strongly emotionally motivated to support it. This has resulted in YEC Scientists gaining a reputation for exaggeration, misquoting and outright falsehood. When one thinks they are defending God himself, any means can seem justified.
In the story above, for example, John Morris of the ICR went to the podium during the presentation of Morton’s paper to challenge him claiming to have been in the oil industry himself. This turned out to be false (or exaggerated – he had once taught a course in petroleum geology). Duane Gish, a famous YEC debater, has a notorious history of using incorrect facts in his writings and debates – being publicly corrected with explicit proof of the error – and then continuing to repeat the same misstatements over and over. (see here: http://mypage.direct.ca/w/writer/gish.html for some examples). Walt Brown in his book (which is still available online) made a claim which has been repeated all over the internet that the cytochrome C sequence of a rattlesnake is closer to human than to any other animal. When pressed, it turns out his source for this claim is his own son’s science fair project! A project in which he drastically misinterprets the meaning of cytochrome C data. (see http://members.cox.net/ardipithecus/evol/lies/lie025.html). This is representative of a number of protein sequencing claims from YEC Scientist that are completely false, to the point of apparently being pulled out of thin air in the case of Kent Hovind: (http://members.cox.net/ardipithecus/evol/HovindLie.html). Out of context quoting is so rampant among YEC Scientist that whole websites have sprung up attempting to correct all the errors (you can start here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/project.html)
So now in addition to being destructive to faith and producing anger and hatred, we can label YEC as tending to produce dishonesty. In my opinion, however, one of the most aggregious tendencies of YEC is to attribute dishonesty, not merely to their opponents, but to God himself.
In order for YEC to be true, God must have intentionally created all the evidence in favor of evolution. For example, as I point out in my brief analysis of evolutionary evidence here: http://perennis.pathstoknowledge.com/evidence_evolution, God would have to have deliberately infected humans and other primates with retrovirus “scars” at certain points in their DNA in just such a way as to make it look like they inherited these scars from their primate ancestors. God would have to have created beams of starlight to give “apparent age” to newly minted stars millions of light-years away (or changed the fundamental constants of the cosmos by huge orders of magnitude). God would have to have tampered with radioactive decay, and done so in such a way that multiple isotopes of multiple elements would all match and agree on outrageously incorrect ages when employed by radiocarbon dating. God would have to have deliberately chosen, time and time again – methods of creating and maintaining the earth which managed to APPEAR as if they were evidence of great age and genetic relationships for all life.
We cannot trust the natural world that God created – because for various inscrutable reasons, he has made it tell a false story. Instead of Paul’s admonition to “let God be true, and every man a liar” we are urged to let God be the liar and every Young Earth Creationist be true. They would not see it this way of course. To them, it’s simply a matter of thinking that the truth of God’s natural world is not as reliable as the truth of an ancient inspired Hebrew text as interpreted by their particular theology.
So let’s add up the results. The fruit of YEC are faithlessness, anger, hatred, deception, and blasphemy.
What does this tell us?
I wanted to close with a quote from St. Augustine – still as eerily applicable today as when it was written more than a thousand years ago…
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” (St. Augustine: Commentary on Genesis, Chapter 19)