Yes, it is tenable to be a young earth creationist in the face of scientific evidence against it. I believe there are three lines of overlapping evidence to support the validity of young earth creationism in the face of evidence against it: 1) it is based on inerrant scriptural truth, 2) it has survived centuries as a doctrinal position even in the face of theological and scientific challenges, 3) it has made significant contributions to scientific discovery.
Inerrant Scriptural Truth
I believe that for many Christian believers, the young earth position is tenable even in the face of scientific evidence against it because it is held to be a more reliable form of information about the origin of the earth and universe than scientific theory. This point stands especially because the Scriptures claim to be authoritative and written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20; Acts 7:38). The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 provide a framework for dating earth history along with those biblical passages which suggest that the days of creation are solar earth days. In addition, in the New Testament, Jesus refers to human events in Genesis as occurring “in the beginning” (Matt. 19:4-5). Science has provided evidence for an origin of the universe but can only infer what happened since there was no human observer. Since the author of creation was there to observe creation, one could make a case that the Bible is a more reliable source of information about the origin of the universe. This is not to say that the practice of science cannot be supported biblically. The Bible speaks of knowledge which can be gained from not only the wisdom of the Bible but from observation of the world around us (Proverbs 2 and Romans 1), and the Bible provides a starting point for scientific discovery since it declares that a physical universe exists and it can be observed (Gen. 1:1; Romans 1).Kurt Wise, Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe (Nashville: B&H, 2002), 3-10.
It Has Survived Centuries as a Doctrinal Position
Consistent with these ideas that young earth creationism is a credible biblical position is the fact that the tenets of young earth creationism can be traced back through millennia to church fathers, many of whom described the earth as thousands of years old; Epistle of Barnabas, Irenaeus (Against Heresies, Book 5), Theophilus of Antioch (To Autolycus, Book 3), Hippolytus (On Daniel), Lactantius (Institutes), Victorinus (On the Creation of the World), Basil of Caesarea (Hexaemeron), Ephrem of Syria (Nisibene Hymns), Cyprian of Carthage (Exhortation to Martyrdom), Methodius (The Banquet of Ten Virgins), and Eusebius of Caesarea (Chronicle).James R. Mook, “The Church Fathers on Genesis, the Flood, and the Age of the Earth,” in Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth, ed. Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury (Green Forest: Master Books, 2008), 23-52. Remarkably, two church fathers,Consistent with these ideas that young earth creationism is a credible biblical position is the fact that the tenets of young earth creationism can be traced back through millennia. Clement (Stromata) and Origen (Against Celsus) who are noted as holding to allegorical views of Scripture described the earth as only thousands of years old.For part of this list of church fathers, I am indebted to Ben Edwards, “Should We Doubt Young Earth Creationism?,” available at: http://www.dbts.edu/2015/01/30/should-we-doubt-young-earth-creationism (accessed on Feb 14, 2019). And more importantly, it was a view held by theologians like John Calvin (Institutes) and Samuel Rutherford (Letters) during the period of the scientific revolution, a period which presented challenges to young age creationism from the Copernican revolution to Darwinian evolution.
In contrast, many famous natural philosophers and thinkers of the scientific revolution who were Christian believers, whose faith did indeed inspire scientific discovery, appear not to have held to a strict young earth view or did not mention it in their writings. For example, theistic Cambridge professors, Thomas Burnett and Isaac Newton, rejected a literal hermeneutic regarding the days of creation.William VanDoodewaard, The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermeneutics, and Human Origins (Grand Rapids: Reformed Heritage Books, 2015), 103-105. In addition, views about an old earth and ancient universe were defended by theistic natural philosophers James Hutton and Comte de Buffon among others.
Regardless, young age creation scientists who held to the traditional age of the earth of a few thousand years would surface in the twentieth century; as a result of their writings and societies, they would become known as the modern creationist movement. For these scientists, young earth creationism was a viable position that did not necessarily clash with science. What’s more, the conferences sponsored by these societies would attract many practicing scientists who would identify themselves as young earth creationists. Perhaps another reason young earth creationism survived is because it is consistent with some of the major ideas and hypotheses which flow from science. For instance, in a very general sense both cosmogony and Scripture point to “a beginning” and an end of the physical universe.
It Has Made Significant Contributions to Scientific Discovery
We can identify creation scientists today who, in contrast to the unclear position of theistic natural philosophers of the past, are clear about their advocacy of the young earth position and have risen to the top of their field and made key scientific discoveries. Two examples are the co-inventor of the MRI, Raymond Damadian, and shuttle astronaut colonel Jeffrey Williams. Colonel Williams was the commander of an international space station mission and holds the record for number of days in space and experiments performed in space for an American astronaut. If the scientific evidence against the young age creation view is overwhelming, then why would leading scientists risk their reputations by holding that position?
From my interaction with creation scientists, I believe that it is respect for and devotion to the truth of Scripture rather than scientific evidence in favor of,If the scientific evidence against the young age creation view is overwhelming, then why would leading scientists risk their reputations by holding that position? or against, a young earth, that compels these scientists to embrace the young age position.
Perhaps the most challenging data to confront the young earth creation position involves the long ages required for Darwinian evolution and big bang cosmogony. Creationists of the late twentieth century did confront some of the evidence in science which appeared to challenge or disprove young age creationism; their main method however was to largely disregard or attempt to disprove the evolutionary models altogether. This method was successful in attracting more young age creationists to conferences, but offered little about how science can be done from the young earth position. At about the same time, the Intelligent Design movement (ID) was also established. It also focused on exposing the problems with naturalistic evolution. And even though there is not a consensus about the age of the earth in the Intelligent Design movement, many participants and even some founders of the movement are young earth creationists. This is most likely due to the fact that the complex biological machines highlighted by ID scientists imply sudden creation, an idea consistent with creatio ex nihilo, a tenet of young age creationism.
In contrast to these groups, other creationists would form societies, including the Creation Biology Society, the Creation Geology Society, the Geosciences Research Institute, and the RATE project sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research. Scientists in these societies accepted some of the scientific data or measurement techniques used to support scenarios such as evolution, but proposed models for how the same data or methods might fit within a biblical young earth model.
The Creation Biology Society established the field of baraminology, the study of created kinds; computer models were developed to show how some of the data used to support the diversification of animals in the fossil record was consistent with a model of rapid post-flood diversification of animals within created kind groups.Todd C. Wood and Paul Garner, Genesis Kinds: Creationism and the Origin of Species (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2009). In fact, some of the methods developed in the field of baraminologyIn this light, the scientific data which appears to counter the young age creation position should be considered more tenuous or unsettled than overwhelming. have been corroborated by evolutionary scientists.Phil Senter, “Using Creation Science to Demonstrate Evolution: Application of a Creationist Method for Visualizing Gaps in the Fossil Record to a Phylogenetic Study of Coelurosaurian Dinosaurs,” Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23 (2010): 1732-43. In addition, nearly two decades of creation biology peer reviewed publication can be compiled which supports a biology creation model for scientific discovery and advancement, and I believe that this work has defused some of the scientific evidence which challenges the young earth creation position.Todd C. Wood, “A Review of the Last Decade of Creation Biology Research on Natural History, 2003-2012,” in Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Creationism, ed. Mark Horstemeyer (Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, 2013), n.p.
Developing creation models of cosmogony has been more challenging especially because of the apparent old age of distant stars and galaxies as measured by light travel times. Yet several young universe creationist models have been proposed, including time dilation, anisotropic synchrony convention, general relativity models, and models based on a mature creation view.Danny Faulkner, “The Current State of Creation Astronomy II,” in Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, ed. J. H. Whitmore (Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, 2018), 36-45. Even though there is little agreement among these different models, each model was developed by accomplished physicists, astronomers, or astrophysicists. However, these same scientists largely agree that there is data which supports a young universe, including the presence of young comets, the rapid evolution of binary stars and globular clusters, and the young age of Jovian planets as suggested by their high interior temperatures.Ibid. Regardless, young age creationists would admit that this is a hard problem and one which may be very difficult to solve.Todd C. Wood, The Quest: Exploring Creation’s Hardest Problems (Nashville: Compass Classroom, 2018).
But it should also be noted that even though there is data which supports big bang cosmogony, not all non-theistic astrophysicists hold to a big bang cosmogony. Relatedly, cosmologists admit that we do not know what makes up 95 percent of the universe. In this light, the scientific data which appears to counter the young age creation position should be considered more tenuous or unsettled than overwhelming.
In conclusion, I would like to restate that young earth creationism is a tenable belief and useful for developing creation models and making predictions in science. And I am happy to say that there is a growing number of scientists who hold to the young earth creation position who are practicing science and making discoveries which not only support a young earth but also contribute to our understanding of the world around us and its Creator.