Answers in Genesis: Why Science Is All Wrong

This one is a classic. It’s at the website of Answers in Genesis (ol’ Hambo’s online ministry). The title is Does Astronomy Confirm a Young Universe?, and it appears to be a chapter in some kind of creationist book.

The authors are Dr. Don DeYoung and Dr. Jason Lisle. Here is DeYoung’s biography page at AIG, which makes it clear that he’s a creationist physicist. He teaches what they call physics at Grace College and Theological Seminary. Our readers are already familiar with Jason Lisle, the creationist astrophysicist, who left AIG a couple of years ago to become director of whatever it is that they call research at the Institute for Creation Research. For some reason, Jason is a co-author of what we found today at AIG.

We’re all eager to learn what those two towering intellects have to say about the age of the universe, so here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and their scripture references omitted:

One of the common objections to biblical creation is that scientists have supposedly demonstrated that the universe is much older than the Bible teaches. The first chapter of Genesis clearly teaches that God created all things in six days (“ordinary” days as defined by an evening and morning) and that human beings were created on the sixth day. This is confirmed and clarified in the other Scriptures as well …. And since the Bible records about four thousand years between Adam and Christ, the biblical age of the universe is about 6,000 years. This stands in stark contrast with the generally accepted secular age estimate of 4.6 billion years for the earth, and three times longer still, 13.7 billion years, for the universe beyond.

That sums up the alleged “controversy,” which is nothing more than a refusal by some theologians to accept what science has discovered since Genesis was written, about 3,000 years ago. We’re told that this is important to those theologians because:

This fundamental time discrepancy is no small matter. It is obvious that if the secular age estimate is correct, then the Bible is in error and cannot be trusted. Conversely, if the Bible really is what it claims to be, the authoritative Word of God, then something is seriously wrong with the secular estimates for the age of the universe.

Many denominations don’t see science as a frighteningly hostile challenge to their religion, but the AIG view is that science presents a pure “us vs. them” struggle for survival. So how do they deal with it? Let’s read on:

Since the secular time scale challenges the authority of Scripture, Christians must be ready to give an answer — a defense of the biblical time scale.

For those who agree with AIG that science must be denied, here’s how it’s done:

It turns out that all secular age estimates are based on two fundamental (and questionable) assumptions. These are naturalism (the belief that nature is all there is), and uniformitarianism (the belief that present rates and conditions are generally representative of past rates and conditions).

Those aren’t “assumptions” that have been arbitrarily adopted by science. They are operational procedures that are followed because un-contradicted experience demonstrates: (1) no reliable evidence exists for either supernatural phenomena or chaotically fluctuating natural laws; and (2) adhering to demonstrable evidence is how testable and verifiable work gets done. Interestingly, the authors include a footnote that mentions something we’ve been saying for a long time around here — but they don’t take it too seriously. Their footnote says:

Some scientists hold to a softer form of naturalism called “methodological naturalism.” This is the concept that a supernatural realm may indeed exist, but should not be considered when doing scientific study. For all intents and purposes, the naturalist does not accept that there is anything beyond nature — at least when he or she is doing science.

That completely misstates the meaning of methodological naturalism. Science, of necessity, deals only with evidence that can be verifiably detected. If there were evidence of supernatural phenomena, science would be delighted to examine it. Until then, there’s nothing science can do with unevidenced theological claims. But the door is always open in the event such evidence becomes available. The AIG article continues:

Secular scientists assume that the earth and universe were not created supernaturally (the assumption of naturalism), and that they generally change in the slow-and-gradual way that we see today (the assumption of uniformitarianism). If these starting assumptions are not correct, then there is no reason to trust the resulting age estimates.

Aaaargh!! Those are not arbitrary assumptions that mindlessly exclude supernaturalism. Again, it’s the procedure of science to consider the evidence — all the evidence — and there is no verifiable evidence of supernatural activity. We should also mention that all the available evidence indicates that the laws of nature have never changed. For a superb example regarding the speed of light, see How Old Is The Creationists’ Universe?, and for evidence that the mass ratio between electrons and protons has remained the same over the past 7.5 billion years, see Hey, Creationists: Laws of Nature Don’t Change. Okay, back to AIG:

But notice something about the assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism: they are anti-biblical assumptions.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We’re already pointed out that they aren’t “assumptions” at all — rather, they’re the conclusions of centuries of observation and testing. As for being anti-biblical, that’s neither the intent of science nor is it a problem for science. Rather than saying that science is anti-biblical (which was never its purpose), a better way to put it is to say that the bible is unscientific, because it’s full of untestable declarations. That’s not a condemnation — love is unscientific too. But unlike creationists, people in love aren’t motivated to deny science. Moving along, we’re told:

So, by assuming naturalism and uniformitarianism, the secular scientist has already assumed that the Bible is wrong. He then estimates that the universe is very, very old, and concludes that the Bible must be wrong. But this is what he assumed at the start. His argument is circular.

Aaaargh!! Here’s one more excerpt:

It’s the logical fallacy called “begging the question.” But all old-earth (and old-universe) arguments assume naturalism and uniformitarianism. Therefore, they are all fallacious circular arguments. That’s right — all of them.

That’s really pathetic stuff. The rest of the article (we’re less than halfway into it) is their presentation of a pack of creationist arguments that have been refuted thousands of times. We won’t take the time to bother with them. If you want to see what’s wrong with their arguments, you can find them all debunked at the TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims.

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34 responses to “Answers in Genesis: Why Science Is All Wrong

  1. Well, I’ll be [edited out]! So we’ve got Laurel and Hardy cleverly using rhetoric to disguise their rigorous formulation of a new physics that not only proves God and the Holey Babble, but also coheres with all observations.

  2. I like DeYoung’s entry in americanloons
    …..has rarely been considered worthy of notice…….

  3. “But notice something about the assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism: they are anti-biblical assumptions.”

    It’s nice to see that AIG still has persecution complex.

  4. Off-topic reminder to any who send email to the Curmudgeon. I can read that email, but I’m still unable to respond. It’s not my fault, it’s AT&T. Don’t take it personally.

  5. Our Curmudgeon claims

    It’s not my fault, it’s AT&T.

    Sounds like you’ve been expelled!

    If you were a Creationist, you could offer this fact up as yet more ‘evidence’ of a vast conspiracy bent on persecuting you.

    Mind you, that probably is a fair description of AT&T…

  6. anevilmeme

    They don’t understand science well enough to build a 3rd rate Strawman.

  7. I wanted to vomit reading this article. How is it that starting with “uniformism” is antibiblical? What if someone thought that the only reality we have ever observed could prove the bible? Of course it has been shown by now that it can’t. but these people who write these articles have to know that they are lying.

  8. @SC: Wow! Still having problems! Would it work to start a new email account on gmail, yahoo, or hotmail? Or is all email kaput on AT&T?

    Back to the thread topic, it’s very difficult (actually, impossible) to understand how two people who have earned Ph.D.s in physics can be so unscientifically magical in their thinking. They know how science works, yet they are deliberately twisting the language to obfuscate what is patently obvious. But to what end?

    We can understand Ham’s motives — he’s got a lot of money invested in his scam museum, and he needs to keep people coming in order to pay for it all and put food on his table. Likewise, we can understand why the Discoveroids prevaricate — heck, they told us why in their Wedge Document. [SC – please provide link here if you wish.]

    But why would two Ph.D. physicists destroy their credibility as scientists, thus throwing away all they had accomplished with their years of education?

    Then again, why would otherwise sane people choose to follow Jim Jones to Jonestown, and then drink the Kool-aid?

  9. retiredsciguy says: “Wow! Still having problems! Would it work to start a new email account on gmail, yahoo, or hotmail? Or is all email kaput on AT&T?”

    I donno what’s going on. Phone help is useless. When I find time, I’m going to set up another copy of my email program, configured just for the Curmudgeon. That may work, but it’s a tedious process. I’m not looking forward to it.

  10. > “But why would two Ph.D. physicists destroy their credibility as scientists, thus throwing away all they had accomplished with their years of education?”

    There are several like Lisle, and whatshisname-ID-biochemist-guy that pursued advanced degrees specifically with the intent of discrediting evolution. By any measure that is a huge effort and personal sacrifice to make just to score a few points in political and religious arguments. For that matter, I don’t see why would anyone is their right mind want to go into politics.

    Perhaps the spark that drives some into political careers is much the same as what makes some Creationists study science then throw all that work away. They don’t care a bit about the science, but they thrive on the glory and adulation it brings from their fellows. Unlike the (ideal) politician, public service plays no play in their motives.

    Dangit, I guess I’m going to have to raise my general opinion of politicians. Suddenly they look a lot better than Creationists (but not Creationist politicians.)

  11. Tomato Addict says: “There are several like Lisle, and whatshisname-ID-biochemist-guy that pursued advanced degrees specifically with the intent of discrediting evolution.”

    I assume you mean Wells. I suppose some start out with that motivation, but they all must reach a point where the realize they won’t succeed. Then they’re stuck, they’ve thrown away their credibility, and they have no choice but to see it through for the rest of their lives, knowing they’re engaged in a hopeless effort. The two who wrote that mess at AIG must realize how goofy it is. Yet they do it anyway. As Hyman Roth said to Michael Corleone: “This is the business we’ve chosen.”

  12. docbill1351

    If you really cared, which you don’t, you’d create “curmie@gmail” and get on with life. Or move your domain to a Real Provider ™. Know what I mean, jelly bean?

    Lisle is among the worst humanity has to offer. Dawkins got it right when he referred to Kurt Wise, an ancestor to Lisle, as a “disgrace to the human species.” Lisle, too, is a disgrace to the human species and he should be mocked, shunned and derided at every opportunity.

  13. BlackWatch

    Based on this latest article from AIG, I propose ol Hambone receive the honorific “Ham and Limas” , this after the most reviled C ration meal ever produced. Uncorrectable no matter how much McIlhenny’s was added, “Ham and Limas” were always thrown away. Congratulations Hammy, even a dog tired mud caked grunt in the field doesn’t buy this stuff.
    That only leaves the drool o tron set as audience. Big time..!

  14. Lisle and De Young were certainly very thorough in dredging up every old and discredited argument from Astronomy for a young Universe. It is also odd to hear someone claim that because the Moon can not be older than 1.5 billion years, it must be 6,000 years old. Also, I thought a Math check was in order about the lunar recession claim. Lisle and De Young state that the Moon is receding from the Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm/year and my calculator tells me that at that rate, in 4.5 billion years it has receded a distance of 0.038 m x 4.5 Gyr = 171, 000, 000 meters. Since the current Earth-Moon distance is 384,000,000 meters there is no problem with an age of 4.5 billion years for the Earth-Moon system. I would have expected a couple of Phds in Physics to have better Math skills. However, they are both completely demented creationists so maybe their inability to do multiplication is not that surprising.

  15. Doctor Stochastic

    Lisle and De Young make an excellent argument in support of Last Thursdayism.

  16. The claim that “naturalism” and uniformitarianism are mere assumptions begs the reply that the literal truth of the Bible and its divine origin are mere assumptions–with the crucial difference that no one has ever been imprisoned or burned at the stake for questioning either of the first two, while all too many have been for challenging ether of the latter two. Yet creationists go on whining about how “Christians are being persecuted” because, at least for now, unbelievers aren’t.

  17. What it all amounts to is that some creationists think they’re being clever by saying people who understand and acknowledge descent with variation over deep time have to make an “assumption” there is no supernatural world, hence it is a religion. So be it. Beats the one that says the sky is going to roll up like a big sheet of hammered metal.

  18. This should absolutely be on your list of Curmudgeon’s Best posts. Bookmarked this one. Thanks.

  19. “It turns out that all secular age estimates are based on two fundamental (and questionable) assumptions”
    Now the really big fun is that rejecting these assumptions is not a YEC privilege. Plantinga’s EAAN is essentially the same.

    “If there were evidence of supernatural phenomena, science would be delighted to examine it.”
    By definition, which you provide yourself, any evidence of supernatural phenomena that can be examined by science is not supernatural.

    “Secular scientists assume that the earth and universe were not created supernaturally (the assumption of naturalism)”
    See what I mean? This is what WL Craig does when defending his Cosmological Argument.

    “love is unscientific too”
    Love totally can be examined by science, just like say electricity.

  20. mnbo notes

    Love totally can be examined by science, just like say electricity.

    As in the case of Curmy’s inflatable ‘Olivia’ and its various electric components.

  21. “Science, of necessity, deals only with evidence that can be verifiably detected. If there were evidence of supernatural phenomena, science would be delighted to examine it. Until then, there’s nothing science can do with unevidenced theological claims. But the door is always open in the event such evidence becomes available. ” Hear, hear! You, like my friend Maarten Boudry (check him out) get it right; a lot of people who should know better do get it wrong and say that science is somehow precluded from examining the supernatural: see Science and the Supernatural: Why we get it wrong and why it matters http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2014/06/science-and-the-supernatural-ii-why-we-get-it-wrong-and-why-it-matters.html

  22. @ Paul Braterman: rapturous applause! That is an outstanding article! Brilliantly and succinctly presented; bravo!

  23. I’m less impressed than Mega.

    “Time and again, science has refuted the appeal to the supernatural by providing alternatives – if this is not “making statements about supernatural forces”, what is?”
    Now this is a non-sequitur. What has happened time and again is that science has drawn phenomena which were thought supernatural in the domain of the natural. It’s not “making statements about supernatural forces” – it’s making statements about natural “forces” (not necessarily understood in the Newtonian way). This merely confirms what I write above: evidence of supernatural phenomena that can be examined by science is not supernatural. Hence science still doesn’t make any statement about the latter.
    In the first example PB only repeats his error:

    “The suggested causes would be “natural.” by any standards, but if established would have the effect of making the appeal to a supernatural Creator unnecessary.”
    Once again science has succeeded in drawing a phenomenon that was supposed to be supernatural into the natural. Note that the theist will answer that those “suggested causes” need explanation too and that that explanation might include something supernatural.

    And here we find the error for the third time, albeit in a different form:

    “I would argue against this on the grounds that there is little or no evidence of a bias towards beneficial mutations”
    It’s silly to ask evidence – ie empirical confirmation – of the supernatural part of theistic evolution. That part is based on faith, not on observation. Also note that PB turns to philosophy to contradict theistic evolution. That’s OK with me – but then he isn’t using science anymore. So once again science says nothing about the supernatural.

  24. I remain impressed by Mr. Braterman’s piece. Have a look at the latest Luskin squeaks: Cosmos Finale Takes One Last Shot at the “Delusion that We Have Some Privileged Position in the Universe”, wherein the celebrated Gerbil concludes

    It has given the appearance of investigation, but in fact the series has consistently whitewashed both the scientific and the historical evidence, evidence that shows materialism to be a false picture of reality. That’s too bad. It’s a disservice to science, and to the program’s intended audience. But frankly what else would you expect from a team of celebrity atheists, handed millions of dollars to promote their views on national television?

    This is bollocks, of course–but it sells to the Discoveroids audience that already buys into the notion that there is some cosmic oogity-boogity, but science can’t investigate it because of some a priori philosophical principle. But that’s nonsense. What science repeatedly demonstrates–as mnbo points out–is that claims about oogity-boogity collapse when investigated empirically, so there is no need at all for any a priori commitment to ‘materialism’ or ‘atheism’ etc. But claiming such a commitment simply gives the oogity-boogity-ites like Luskin some wriggle room to blather that ‘science’ is insufficient to permit us to understand the world.

  25. Blast and damnation! Screwed up the html tags yet again…

    I do believe in HTML Tag-Fixing Angels! I do believe in HTML Tag-Fixing Angels! I do! I do! I do believe in HTML Tag-Fixing Angels…

    [*Voice from above*] Seek and ye shall find!

  26. But, yet again, claims of the supernatural fails because they do not tell us what the supernatural is likely to do – and what it is not likely to do; we don’t know what it is about the supernatural that leads to it doing whatever it does not, or how things would turn out if the supernatural were different. We don’t know how the operation of the supernatural is any different from Omphalism. (We are told that some supernatural agents are not trustworthy: from Puck through trickster gods to Satan.)
    Actually, what is the supernatural? Is it anything more than a “placeholder” for “I don’t know?” (What is an “act of God” any more than “something that we can’t blame anyone for”, or “who could have foreseen that this would happen?”)

  27. Megalonyx says: “Have a look at the latest Luskin squeaks …”

    I’ve decided not to blog about that one. Too long. Too rambling. Too chaotic. Too … Casey.

  28. TomS observes: “But, yet again, claims of the supernatural fails because they do not tell us …”

    All their “evidence” is in the form of: “There’s no way you can explain X. Therefore, Oogity Boogity!” However, the whole history of science has been explaining one instance of X after another, causing the supernaturalists to constantly retreat to another X, and then another. I’ve said before that they should just pick their most defensible position — the origin of the universe and the laws of nature — plant their flag there, and hope for the best. But that leaves them with mere Deism, which isn’t anywhere close to where they want to be.

  29. Paul Braterman, I agree with Megalonyx — which is a rare event indeed! Here’s another link to your excellent essay: Science and the Supernatural (II): Why we get it wrong and why it matters.

  30. I just noticed a blooper in one of my earlier posts, wherein I referenced “Mr. Braterman”; embarrassed apologies, that should be “Prof. Braterman”.

    I have seated myself on the Naughty Step for the next hour….

  31. @SC their most defensible position — the origin of the universe and the laws of nature

    This may the strongest attack on scientific/naturalistic explanations.
    But supernaturalism is equally vulnerable. It is not at all a
    defensible
    position for supernaturalism. (I will admit that it is not worse in the defensibility department than other supernatural positions. Given how weak some of the things that are said on its defense, that is faint praise.)

    What is there about the supernatural that would make likely that there would be a universe and laws of nature? Other than the supposition that with the supernatural all states of affairs are possible? But that means that it is also possible that there would be no universe and no laws of nature. The supernatural could do that as anything else it can do.

    Not only don’t we know anything about the supernatural that would lead to “something, rather than nothing”. We cannot even imagine what it might be about the supernatural that would lead to any conclusion rather than any other.

  32. I must agree with TomS that “supernatural” is just a placeholder for “I/we don’t know.” In fact, I would go further and say it’s a placeholder for “I/we cannot know,” which is a considerably stronger claim. If we are the product of purely natural forces and substances, the supernatural must forever lie beyond our cognitive reach since any ostensibly supernatural phenomenon becomes entirely natural as soon as it is properly understood by us. (As several others have pointed out, this progressive diminution of the realm of the supernatural is one of science’s many laudable by-products.) So unless one insists that consciousness/mind/cognition incorporates certain essential supernatural elements, the supernatural must remain impenetrable to us as comprehensible — and ergo, fruitful — explanatory schemas.

  33. It is not our fault that God goes out of his way to make things difficult. If we only saw stars 6000 light years away and new ones popped out all the time, scientists would have no problem accepting that the earth was created 6000 years ago.

  34. DeYoung & Lisle: “It is obvious that if the secular age estimate is correct, then the Bible is in error and cannot be trusted.”

    Yep. That about sums it up. And with the huge amount of evidence supporting the “secular” age estimate, we can see that indeed, the bible cannot be trusted — at least, not as a source of accurate science information. It’s the fundamentalists who are destroying people’s trust in the bible by insisting that it is inerrant in all matters, including science, when it is so clear that it is not.

    Jason Lisle proposed the preposterous idea that light speed is asymmetrical to explain how galaxies can be millions and billions of light years distant even though they would have been in existence only 6,000 years.

    Even if his “asymmetrical light” were a fact (which it most certainly isn’t), it doesn’t explain why we see supernovae occurring all around us in the universe — even though it takes at least a few million years for a star to progress from formation to supernova explosion. And then there’s the fact that any element beyond iron on the Periodic Table (No. 26) can only be formed in a supernova collapse & explosion. Judging by the amount of heavier elements on our planet, there must have been a whole bunch of supernovae occurring before earth formed. Lisle has a doctorate in astrophysics — he should know this stuff. Apparently, his brain is so saturated with godly thoughts he has no room in there for real science.