Cover story articleYoung Earth creationism

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If we are going to teach creation science as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction.
—Judith Hayes

Young Earth creationism (YEC) is the belief that our planet and universe were created, from nothing, in six days, approximately 6,000 years ago, by the God of the Abrahamic religions. Adherents of young Earth creationism are known as "young Earth creationists," or simply YECs.

Their belief is derived from a literal interpretation of the two creation myths in the Biblical book of Genesis.[1] This means young Earth creationists believe the six days described in Genesis were standard 24-hour days and use James Ussher's chronology (or a suitable alternative) to date the Earth's creation to only a few thousand years ago. Answers in Genesis claim science is the work of fallible humans while the Bible is the infallible word of God. This must be true because the Bible says so.[2] Young earth creationists reject the mountains of scientific evidence demonstrating the earth is older than a few thousand years, as well as the various attempts to reconcile the stories in Genesis with science, such as day-age creationism.

A firm belief in the biblical worldwide flood and the story of Noah is also a cornerstone of young Earth creationism. The flood is used by proponents of YEC to explain almost all observations that scientists have interpreted as pointing to a significantly older Earth.

Creationists who believe in an Earth with an age less in conflict with science are called Old Earth creationists, which sometimes includes believers of theistic evolution despite acceptance of evolution (albeit minus the methodological naturalism in the case of the guided evolution branch of theistic evolution).

Interestingly enough, the oldest commentary on Genesis, by Philo, which was written even before the birth of Christ, holds to an allegorical view of the text. There is only one Church father who is known to have held to a view which is even somewhat literal, St. Basel, and there are a plethora who are known to have held to an allegorical interpretation (St. Augustine, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Origen, etc.). Also, in Galatians 4:24, St. Paul presents the relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar allegorically for the purpose of instructing the church at Galatia, which means it is possible that he applied this allegorical interpretation to the entire story of Abraham, though the text of Galatians does not state or imply that.

Young Earth creationism is mostly specific to Christianity and occasionally Judaism - known Islamic creationists like Harun Yahya tend to be old Earth creationists.

Contents

[edit] Date of creation according to young earth creationists

Are we talking Venusian or Uranian days?

Although the book of Genesis does not mention any specific creation date, the 4004 BCE date of creation upheld by young Earth creationists was calculated by the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh, James Ussher,[3] in 1658 and John Lightfoot in 1644.[4] These chronologies involve meticulously tracing the lineages recounted in the Bible (including Noah's supposed 900 years) back to known time, and compared Middle Eastern, biblical and Mediterranean sources to come up with the surprisingly exact date of October 23, 4004 BCE. At 9:00 in the morning, EST.

This figure would put the age of the Earth many orders of magnitude less than the scientifically agreed figure based on radiometric dating among other pieces of evidence. Specifically, the actual age of the Earth is about 75 million percent longer than the Biblical age of the Earth. To put this in perspective, those with the YEC worldview believe the world was created after the first domestication of the dog (and possibly the goat), after the first stones were laid at Stonehenge, after people settled in Scotland and more. Evidence against a recent creation is quite simply overwhelming.

In a typical case of moving the goalposts, many modern young-Earth creationists have blurred the date of creation to "under 10,000 years" thus avoiding the nasty problems of a written history just over 7000 years old, and those pesky comments that are "always under 10,000 years old." Being less specific also avoids any problems people have with the actual genealogies in the Bible.[5]

[edit] Conflict with science

The concept of the Earth being instantaneously formed only 6000 years ago obviously flies in the face of many fields of modern science. The branches of science you have to ignore to believe in young Earth creationism are numerous—containing practically all of known science—but most notably these sciences are biology (the theory of evolution and palaeontology), astronomy (starlight problem), geology (volcanic formation, sedimentation, plate tectonics), archaeology (historic development of ancient civilizations), dendrochronology (tree-ring dating), and physics (radiometric dating).

These scientific fields are backed by centuries of research by the scientific method, are falsifiable and have accumulated vast quantities of supportive evidence.

Young Earth creationists often reject scientific theories and discoveries that go against their ideas - but rather than presenting evidence for a young Earth, they resort to attacking modern science. This is based on not only a misunderstanding of how science develops but also on the false dichotomy that if science is wrong (in any way), young-earth creationism and Biblical literalism must be true. Since creationist ideas are based on faith rather than evidence, they are not falsifiable and are not classed as science. Ken Ham admits as much, having stated in his debate with Bill Nye that "[He's] a Christian], and so no amount of independent, consilient evidence would ever alter his beliefs in any way.

Popular methods of discrediting modern science include:

This is the practice of isolating quotes from their original context in order to support a particular view. This often is used in conjunction with the argument from authority—i.e., an authoritative person said this, so it must be right, even if the quote is out of context. The ellipsis—the omission of intervening text—is one way of quote mining and is often of staggering magnitude (the sections on either side of the ellipsis might be pulled from opposite sides of a book, for instance[6]).
Claiming modern science is politicized and biased because "most scientists are liberals or moderates." This is, of course, untrue, and even if it were true, it constitutes a fallacious appeal to motive.
Usually the phrase "only a theory" is passed about without any sense of irony, as creationists themselves sometimes attempt to pass creationism off as a "theory," albeit one unsupported by any evidence. This is also due to a misunderstanding of what a scientific theory actually is. Yet for them somehow the Bible is not "only a theory."
This is often combined with the above method of citing the fact that science is theory. Indeed, science has been wrong, but when it is found to be wrong it changes and becomes more accurate. Fundamentalism, on the other hand, by definition doesn't change, maintaining, at best, a constant distance from reality. But since YEC as it's presently articulated is quite a recent phenomenon - Henry M. Morris' The Genesis Flood wasn't published until 1961 - in this particular respect fundamentalism has actually gotten further from reality.[7]
This can be wide reaching, from the speed of light changing over time to support the apparent age of the universe to bizarre hypotheses and suggestions that help support a global flood event.
As not all people are experts in all fields of science, a lot of people have to make do with popularised and slightly inaccurate versions of scientific theories. The inaccuracies or dramatisations of these theories which slip into popular culture (such as natural selection being termed "survival of the fittest") are easily exploitable. So is saying that intelligent design is right because it (sort of) happens in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This technique solves many problems, like the starlight problem and explaining why incest was not an issue for Adam and Eve's offspring as well as for those aboard Noah's Ark. From a materialistic view, these are unsatisfying answers. Often this is abbreviated to "goddidit." Where this excuse might generate problems, YECs are known to resort to the related but more specific Flooddidit, Falldidit and Satandidit.
  • Referring to obsolete sources:
Science thrives on change. When discrediting evolutionary theories, creationists will often cite Charles Darwin's original The Origin of Species and point out issues which were poorly understood at the time. As all of science is a work in progress the specific details of the theory of evolution have changed much since Darwin's time and continue to be improved. Evolution is referred to as Darwinism (often to establish a false equivalence with religion), ignoring progress since Darwin. It's also a form of special pleading: they never refer to physicists as Newtonists or Einsteinists, nor chemists as Lavoisierists,[8] nor microbiologists as Leeuwenhoekists, optical scientists as Alhazenists, or mathematicians as Archimedeans. Alternatively, creationists say that Darwin was wrong and overlook that later theories give a better picture of evolution.
For example, a physicist writing about DNA analysis or geologists commenting on biology. In science, this is of course perfectly acceptable, but it does not by default give them authority over someone who has proved themselves as a specialist in an area. This is possibly most apparent in the published list of scientists who disagree with evolution, where only a small handful are qualified biologists. Denial of climate change uses the same tactics.
Similar to divine intervention, the Flood is often cited to explain the presence of fossils, sedimentary layers, The Grand Canyon and to explain why radiometric dating would be flawed. However, this presumes a flood occurred and that it would adequately explain these features of the earth, which it wouldn't do well even if it was feasible to have occurred. See petrified forest.

Mainstream scientists classify young Earth creationism as a pseudoscience, putting it on par with astrology. Indeed, at the Dover trial, Michael Behe, arguing that intelligent design should be allowable in public schools, admitted that his definition of science was broad enough to include astrology.

[edit] The Omphalos hypothesis

See the main article on this topic: Omphalos hypothesis

Some branches of YEC explain away inconvenient evidence such as dinosaur fossils, ancient rock strata in the Grand Canyon, and light from stars millions of light years away, as red herrings planted by God to test the faith of believers.

This hypothesis, that God created the world, and indeed the universe, deliberately to appear much older than it actually is, was promoted by the Calvinist and naturalist Philip Henry Gosse in his 1857 book Omphalos, giving rise to the Omphalos hypothesis, although there are earlier examples of similar theories.

The Omphalos hypothesis reconciles the Biblical account of creationism with scientific findings which would seem to contradict it, and in fact was probably created with this intention in mind. However, it doesn't fare well against Occam's razor, since it presents a more elaborate explanation for scientific evidence than we would get from interpreting evidence at face value. It is also unfalsifiable and resembles Last Thursdayism or the idea that we're living in a simulated reality.

The Omphalos hypothesis also suggests a deceitful God and many creationists reject it for this reason.[9]

[edit] Young Earth creationism around the world

Young Earth creationism exists primarily among Christian and Jewish fundamentalists, and is most popular in the USA. In the United States, roughly 40% of the population believe that God created humanity in its present form 10,000 years ago but this figure is at an all time low and is declining. People with low education are more inclined to believe Young Earth creationism.[10]

Although it has little political traction, creationism exists in the UK. An article in The Guardian in September 2008 put the number of people believing in YEC ideas at 10% of the population. [11]

Contrary to popular belief, YEC beliefs are not common in the Muslim world. Although many Muslim cultures reject the theory of evolution, most accept that the universe was created billions of years ago and do not insist on a six-day creation as young Earth creationists do, and the schools in many Muslim countries include evolution in their biology curricula.

[edit] Opinions

Nearly all peoples have developed their own creation myths, and the Genesis story is just the one that happened to have been adopted by one particular tribe of Middle Eastern herders. It has no more special status than the belief of a particular West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants.
Richard Dawkins
Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof.
—Ashley Montagu

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

YEC Resources:

Refutation resources:

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Genesis, King James Bible version
  2. Don’t call us young-earth creationists
  3. James Ussher's Date of the Creation, Ohio Sate University
  4. Bishop Ussher Dates the World: 4004 BC, Lock Haven University]
  5. http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/4005.asp
  6. Ooblick.com: Quotations about Evolution - The longest ellipsis in the world
  7. Morris famously stated that "When science and the Bible differ, science has obviously misinterpreted its data." Morris and other YECs clearly view themselves as greater authorities on the subject than the Church Fathers, as Augustine of Hippo noted that the purported perfection of scripture means that any apparent disagreement between science and a particular interpretation of the Bible simply means that the interpretation is not the correct one.
  8. Who is the Father of Chemistry? [1]
  9. Romans 1:20 contradicts this hypothesis. Romans 1:20 says "... being understood from what has been made..." we can't really understand this world if the Omphalos hypotheses was correct.
  10. http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/Four-Americans-Believe-Strict-Creationism.aspx
  11. 10% of UK population creationists
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