I appreciate Hans’s redirect and thoughtful questions to my contribution. With regard to my qualification of Mayr’s third principle, he asks, “Do you mean that we can only understand origins using divine revelation, not science?” If this is really what I mean, he states “This conclusion seems counterintuitive, if not controversial.” I will own the controversy, but from a Christian worldview I don’t see it as counterintuitive. When comparing young earth creation with the view of ‘regular scientists’ (a term used in the redirect), there is a dramatic contrast between their meta-narratives of human history.
What’s in a Worldview?
In the first case, humanity starts in a sinless state with intimate relationship with the Creator. A choice is made to reject the Creator’s authority. The rest of the story is one of redemption, where God provides a just payment for and restored relationship with a people who are rebellious and enemies of God. This case is not just a young earth statement, but includes old earth creationists and those who hold to the traditional view of Christianity. In the second case, humanity starts in a less developed state, unable to respond to the source of being. (The source of being could be physical processes, an immaterial cosmic essence of mind or a Creator understood in the sense of historical Christianity.) As humanity progresses to a state of higher intellectual and moral awareness, people freely choose to respond to what they attribute as their source of being with worshipful awe and wonder. One reason people study science is because it does inspire wonder regardless of their belief system.
I know by using only two cases one can argue that I fall into the fallacy of false choices. However, the point to be made is that one meta-narrative places humanity in a mature physical and mental state in the beginning with a fall into decay, while the other places humanity in an immature state progressively evolving to its current state. The one places humanity in rebellion against the Creator, the other makes humanity a morally neutral agent. For those proposing a third option, how do they define the physical, moral, and spiritual trajectory of mankind’s history? This question gets to the heart of what it means to be human and how we answer questions about all human activity from the arts to politics, including science.
To conclude this thought, everybody approaches the question of origins with a theology: a sense of what is eternal and the basis of all reality. The Christian worldview accepts divine revelation and, therefore, any conclusion about origins is incomplete without it. This ties into Hans’s statement that my conclusion infers “that physicists and biologists are not qualified to study the origins of the universe or of humanity.” This would be true only if divine revelation provided all the details of God’s creative acts, which it doesn’t. Regardless of faith commitments, scientists expand our knowledge about the universe, biology, and humanity. This knowledge has implications that relate to our questions about origins. However, we must be aware that each individual approaches science as a biased and finite being.
Bias, Consensus, and Paradigms
The hope in science is that the collective efforts of the scientific community can remove bias and expand beyond the limitations of the individual. Given the social aspects of humanity, a confirmation bias will develop, which we call a consensus view or paradigm. Aristotle’s writings provide an extensive view of Greek science, which still influences Western civilization, although major tenets of it were rejected during the scientific revolution. Spontaneous generation, which was accepted by Aristotle, was given a ‘mortal blow’ by Pasteur’s curved-neck flask experiment.See the lecture Pasteur delivered at Sorbonne in 1864, “On Spontaneous Generation,” available here: http://www.rc.usf.edu/~levineat/pasteur.pdf (accessed on June 28, 2019). Although modified from a sudden to a slow process (now called abiogenesis), the belief that life comes from non-life is the consensus scientific view. George Wald (1954) made it clear that it is impossible for this to occur by chance. This idea is maintained, not because of scientific merit, but because of philosophical necessity.George Wald, “The Origin of Life,” Scientific American 191.2 (August 1954): 44-53.
Hans points out in light of Gordon Wilson’s response that, due to the scientific evidence, Flood Geology was rejected in favor of an ancient earth in the context of a Christian culture. Given the influence of Ussher’s chronology into the nineteenth century, this indeed was a paradigm shift. At the time, it was inconceivable that laminated sediments over great depths could be laid down by the catastrophic flood described in Genesis. As a result, even to the present day uniformitarianism has been the interpretive geological paradigm, although not as adverse to catastrophes as Lyell’s gradualism. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, an example of the inconceivable presented itself: laminated sediments were generated in depth over a short period of time. Although regular scientists would contest that this applies to large-scale structures, such as the Grand Canyon, this has been the operating paradigm of young earth creationists to the present day.
Hans refers to chapter 17 of a book co-authored by Stephen Moshier,See ch.17 in Robert Bishop, Larry Funck, Raymond Lewis, Stephen Moshier, and John Walton, Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins: Cosmology, Geology, and Biology in Christian Perspective (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018). Chapter 17 is by Stephen Moshier, “Reading Earth’s History in Rocks and Fossils” (pp. 290-327). where young earth interpretations of the geological record are analyzed. Lacking the geological expertise to respond to most of what was written, I will restrict my comments to the Ice Age. Although the operative, young earth model of the Ice Age was proposed by Oard (1979),Michael Oard, “A Rapid Post-Flood Ice Age,” Creation Research Society Quarterly 16 (1979): 29-37. there is a need to validate its plausibility. Currently, I am modeling conditions that may lead to a rapidly developing Ice Age.Steven Gollmer, “Initial Conditions for a Post-Flood Rapid Ice Age,” in Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Creationism, ed. Mark Horstemeyer (Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, 2013). Although this is a work in progress, I point out that I am using climate models validated as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Historical science is akin to forensic science, where you compare the collected evidence against plausible scenarios. If an appropriate combination of ocean temperature, aerosol load, and other factors can initiate an Ice Age, then Oard’s model gains plausibility. Otherwise, it will be revised or replaced. This is the process that all scientists follow as they build models.
Connecting Science and Faith
The last question posed by Hans relates to my two ‘first principles’ about God: his existence and his desire to communicate with his creation. I gave the impression that these were unique young earth creation assumptions, which they are not. However, I used them to provide a starting point for my rationale as to why I place historical significance on the early chapters of Genesis, which is unique to young earth creationism.
All Christians need to decide how to connect their faith and science. The book Science and Christianity: Four ViewsRichard Carlson, ed., Science & Christianity: Four views (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000). For a more recent presentation on this topic see J. B. Stump, ed., Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2017). presents several models and they differ in how Scripture and science interact when answering the hard questions. The more a person studies Scripture and science, the more crucial it becomes to weigh the facts and make up one’s own mind rather than defer to what other influential people have said or written. Although the question still vexes me at times as I learn new things, I hold to young earth creationism out of theological necessity.
In the summer of 2000, I spent six weeks at Calvin College discussing the validity of intelligent design in a seminar led by William Dembski. I was the token young earth creationist, although I met a few sympathizers. Towards the end of the seminar, I had a private conversation with a philosophy of science professor from Kent State University. He said that if I would make a small concession on the age of the earth it would solve a number of scientific issues. I agreed with him, but responded that it would also open up a large number of theological issues. I would rather have a coherent theological understanding of who God is and how he has worked in this world than to have issues of deep time resolved. Some would say that you can have both, but I disagree. I have heard and read discussions about Adam and Eve, the presence of natural evil, the nature of sin, and inerrant Scripture from a diversity of creation positions. On each of these topics I feel young earth creationism coheres closest to traditional Christian theology, which has stood the test of time for nearly two millennia. The scientific tensions I gain by rejecting deep time are obvious. However, I participate in science with the hope that as more knowledge comes to light, a clearer understanding of how God has and is working in the world will become apparent. Not just to me, but to the whole world.