Intelligent Design

Amanda Marcotte is half-right about creationists

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Over at Raw Story, feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte has written an interesting post, New Darwin Documentary Shows Creationists Aren’t Dumb. They’re Fearful, about a new HBO documentary, Questioning Darwin, which features interviews with creationists. Marcotte comments:

I agree with the New York Times reviewer that the creationists are presented non-judgementally, but as these clips amassed by Gawker make clear, the creationists do all the work for you anyway. There’s a pastor explaining he would have to accept it if the Bible said “2+2=5″ and people talking, over and over again, about the strategies they have to employ to shut down their minds in the event that they’re presented with an opportunity to think more broadly. The major emotion that comes off them in waves is that of fear: Fear of asking questions, fear of the “world” (which is always talked about negatively), fear of difference, fear that thinking might lead them into dark places, fear that they really aren’t special that manifests in making up a God who loves you so you never have to go a moment without that feeling, fear that they will fall into the abyss without blind obedience to authority, and, of course, fear of death…

That the conflict here is about curiosity vs. incuriosity is incredibly important, because I think a lot of rationalists tend to fall into thinking creationists are just dumbasses. What I really liked about the documentary was that it didn’t hesitate to show how creationists can be articulate and actually quite persuasive, if you accept their premises. Indeed, a lot of them talked at length about how their belief in a loving god who specifically created the universe for them is fundamentally incompatible with evolutionary theory (and other scientific theories based in astronomy, physics, and geology that demonstrate that the universe and our planet are very, very old — Ken Ham at one point tries to argue down the idea that light from stars is millions of years old when it gets to us), and you know what? I found that argument persuasive. Certainly more persuasive than the typical attempt to reconcile the obvious fact that evolution is true with the desire to believe in a loving god, which is usually some variation of, “Well, God created the universe through evolution.”… If you’ve ever been to a museum where they put a piece of paper on top of a rock formation to show how insignificant we are in terms of time — or if you’ve ever pondered how tiny our planet is in the great expanse of space — then this is beyond idiotic. It’s like taking multiple generations of people tending an oven to make a cupcake.

The problem creationists have is similar to the problem that troubled Darwin, in other words: On one hand, you have the evidence. On the other hand, you have this need to believe that a god created the universe just for us. These two things do not work together. I didn’t feel the creationists were stupid. If anything, they were unable to just compartmentalize in the same way that Darwin was unable to compartmentalize, which strikes me as a sign of intelligence. What they were, instead, were people who looked at all the conflicts between what they want to believe and what the evidence says is true, and just chose to go with the former and put all their mental faculties towards defending that position.

I’d like to make a few brief comments before throwing the discussion open to readers.

1. Having watched the clips put together by Gawker, I didn’t get the sense that creationists were fearful people. Rather, they struck me as people who had been “mugged by reality.” I also got a strong impression of people who realized that they would be unable to function as moral beings if they accepted evolutionary materialism, which denies free will and says that we’re really “meat machines.” To be sure, you can be a materialist and still try to make the world a “better” place, but only if you define “better” in terms of results (e.g. a high literacy rate or a low infant mortality rate) rather than in terms of what the Dalai Lama, in his Ethics for the Third Millennium, refers to as attitudes of heart and mind – which, he argues, is what morality is really all about. (Although the Dalai Lama is not a theist in the conventional sense of the word, he rejects materialism – see also here – as all Buddhists do.)

2. Young earth creationist grounds for rejecting an old Earth and theistic evolution need to be openly addressed, as the arguments put forward by the creationists in the clip have considerable force.

The question, “Why would an omnipotent Intelligent Designer take billions of years to make a universe, when He could do the job instantly?” is a perfectly reasonable one, and as Amanda Marcotte points out, the reply that He did it that way because He wanted to let Nature unfold is lame and unconvincing. I attempted to address this question back in 2011, in my post, “The universe is too big, too old and too cruel”: three silly objections to cosmological fine-tuning (Part Two). While the age of the universe is not a good objection to fine-tuning as such, it does pose a genuine puzzle if we suppose the Designer to be omnipotent. The answer I would propose is that the age of the universe is itself fine-tuned. That is, if the universe had been just a little older or younger, it would have been uninhabitable. This is because the age of the universe is intimately connected with its size, and the size of the universe is something we know to be fine-tuned. I’d like to quote from my 2011 post:

The main reason why the universe is as big as it currently is that in the first place, the universe had to contain sufficient matter to form galaxies and stars, without which life would not have appeared; and in the second place, the density of matter in the cosmos is incredibly fine-tuned, due to the fine-tuning of gravity. To appreciate this point, let’s go back to the earliest time in the history of the cosmos that we can meaningfully talk about: the Planck time, when the universe was 10^-43 seconds old. If the density of matter at the Planck time had differed from the critical density by as little as one part in 10^60, the universe would have either exploded so rapidly that galaxies wouldn’t have formed, or collapsed so quickly that life would never have appeared. In practical terms: if our universe, which contains 10^80 protons and neutrons, had even one more grain of sand in it – or one grain less – we wouldn’t be here….

Dr. Robert Sheldon, in a personal email communication, suggests [one] reason why the universe needs to be very old. According to Einstein, space and time are interchangeable. So by symmetry, a universe which is large enough to contain 100 billion galaxies (each having about 100 billion stars), in addition to lots of quasars, must have also had a long history.

In short, if you want a massive universe, with lots of galaxies and stars, then it has to be large, and if it’s large, then it has to be old.

Atheists might object that a Cosmic Designer could make a universe which was small and everywhere life-friendly with a different set of laws. If they want to argue that way, that’s fine, but as I argued in my previous post, the onus is on atheists to show us exactly how these hypothetical laws would differ from those in our universe, and how these laws would produce a life-friendly universe.

In my last post on the fine-tuning argument, I argued that the argument makes most sense if we assume that the Intelligent Designer of the cosmos wanted to not only make a universe that is hospitable to intelligent beings like ourselves, but also to send a clear signal of His existence to these intelligent beings. A universe with an old but finely tuned age (as well as size) would constitute just such a signal. Here, then, we have a non-trivial reason for the vast age of the cosmos.

A young earth creationist might still argue that a miraculously created universe that was only 6,000 years old would constitute an even clearer sign of the Designer’s existence than a finely tuned old cosmos. My answer is that it would indeed, if we had some independent way of knowing that the universe was indeed young. (To argue for this fact on the authority of Scripture would of course be question-begging, if one were trying to convince an atheist of God’s existence, as the atheist would not accept Scripture as an “independent way of knowing.”)

As I see it, then, young earth creationists, in order to make their position epistemically reasonable to skeptics, would need to successfully undermine their confidence in Big Bang cosmology, and argue that any “old-age” model for the origin and development of the universe will inevitably give rise to insoluble paradoxes in the field of physics and/or cosmology. If they can do that, then: (a) by implication, the fine-tuning arguments I appealed to above would also be discredited; and (b) the geological arguments for an old Earth would also have to be set aside, as strong arguments for a young Earth that were based on physics would automatically take precedence over arguments for an old Earth that were based on geology. While I think it’s extremely unlikely that successful arguments of the sort described above can be mounted, I would view the attempt to construct such arguments as a legitimate scientific endeavor for YEC physicists.

3. That leaves us with the other standard objection to an old Earth: that a God Who would make things over billions of years, in a way that kills untold numbers of innocent creatures, is a heartless monster. In response, I’d like to reproduce an excerpt from a recent post of mine, in reply to the atheist blogger Jeffery Jay Lowder:

Even if it were true that God could have designed the laws of nature so that the predation of sentient animals never took place, they would still need to die somehow – e.g. from hunger, thirst, cold or disease. A swift death as the victim of a predator might be a more merciful end.

But couldn’t God design an animal’s pain regulation such that it passed out automatically when the pain it was suffering exceeded a certain threshold, thereby preventing it from ever experiencing excruciating pain? No. What we need to bear in mind is that an animal’s pain regulation system is regulated by psycho-physical laws. Now suppose that the animal’s pain regulation system were governed by laws like this, guaranteeing that nothing could ever cause it to suffer excruciating pain: “When (animal’s flesh is experiencing second- or third-degree burns) OR (animal’s body is being devoured by a predator) OR (animal’s body is being struck by lightning) OR (animal’s body is falling freely through the air at a speed in excess of 30 meters per second), then: pass out.” And now we can see what’s wrong with this requirement. There are innumerable situations in everyday life which might cause an animal to suffer excruciating pain, and no finite set of program instructions could hope to cover all these cases. (For instance, what about death by electrocution, death by drowning, or dying of thirst in the desert?) An infallible pain regulation system would only work in a Laplacian, deterministic world, where God controlled all the outcomes. But that’s not the world we live in. No moral agents possessing libertarian freedom (such as ourselves) could live in a world like that.

I would therefore argue that not even God could design a natural pain regulation system, governed by psycho-physical laws, that worked infallibly in an indefinite variety of situations. Given such a variety of situations, the only way in which God could prevent animals from suffering excruciating pain in all possible circumstances would be to supernaturally intervene in the rare cases not covered by His natural pain regulation program for animals. What the atheist needs to show is that God is morally bound to intervene in this fashion. The idea (put forward in all seriousness by some atheists) that God, if He existed, would be morally obliged to “step in”every time that an individual animal met with a severely painful situation not covered by the creature’s built-in pain-regulation program, is surely a preposterous one, as it turns God into a cosmic Nanny.

I should add that there is scant Scriptural support for the notion that there was no animal death before the Fall – let alone no animal suffering. Of all the animals, only the serpent is cursed by God after the Fall, in the narrative of Genesis 3. The other animals are left unscathed. God pronounces the curse of death upon Adam and his descendants:

“By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19, NIV)

However, nowhere in the narrative is Adam told that the other animals would also die because of his sin. Nor does Isaiah’s description of the new heaven and the new Earth in Isaiah 65:17-25, where “the wolf and the lamb will feed together” (Isaiah 65:25), contain any statement that God’s original creation was like that. Finally, the objection that God could never have pronounced His creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31) if it had contained animal death and suffering, is weakened considerably by the admission of leading young-earth creationists that non-sentient animals would still have died.

This is not to say that there are not features of life in the animal realm which are genuinely perplexing from a theological standpoint – for instance, the occurrence of infanticide in certain species of animals. I’m not going to propose a solution here, except to note in passing that while the general features of the biological realm are logically ascribed to its Creator, specific anomalies may have some other cause.

An interesting discussion of the problem of animal suffering can be found in this 2007 post by former atheist (and Christian convert) David Wood.

4. Finally, I would respond to P.Z. Myers’ contemptuous characterization of creationists as “cowards” who are afraid to face up to reality by pointing out that everyone refuses to accept some statement or other about the world, simply because they find it too outrageous to be true, and because accepting it would drive them crazy. P.Z. Myers is just as frightened of the possibility of a world in which Hell and Original Sin are real as the creationists whom he lambastes are of a world in which human beings are nothing more than “meat machines” or biological computers (see his comments on this post). Darwin, for that matter, detested the “damnable doctrine” that “my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlasting punished.”

While it may be considered an intellectual vice to refuse to accept a conclusion simply because doing so would make you feel very sad, it is quite another matter when it comes to conclusions that would send you mad, if you believed them. Any self-respecting animal would – and should – protect itself from adopting beliefs that would threaten its very sanity. There is nothing gained from adopting an idea which destroys your mind. The creationists in the HBO documentary deserve credit for recognizing this obvious fact.

27 Replies to “Amanda Marcotte is half-right about creationists

  1. 1
    seventrees says:


    vjtorley, you stated:

    Nor does Isaiah’s description of the new heaven and the new Earth in Isaiah 65:17-25, where “the wolf and the lamb will feed together” (Isaiah 65:25), contain any statement that God’s original creation was like that.

    Genesis 1:30 says something different.

    And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

    Stating that this is a restoration is not far-fetched.

  2. 2
    seventrees says:

    I just re-read the post again. It seems you were not talking of death due to carnivorous activity. In that case, the verse I cited is not fit.

  3. 3
    SteRusJon says:

    The problem creationists have is similar to the problem that troubled Darwin, in other words: On one hand, you have the evidence. On the other hand, you have this need to believe that a god created the universe just for us. These two things do not work together.

    I get really annoyed with them that see their private “interpretation of the data within a axiomatic set” as “the evidence” and my “interpretation of the data within a differing axiomatic set” as some how “not the evidence (read as self-delusion)” It never seems to cross their minds that a different set of basic, rational assumptions might just be valid. They, it seems, insist on judging my conclusions within their axiomatic set. Furthermore, I know of numerous datum points that are problematic as “the evidence” in that articulating an “interpretation of the data within their axiomatic set” is really hard to accomplish.


  4. 4
    Axel says:

    Just one problem, vjt: are you happy to be complimented by someone who ‘has the boot on the wrong foot’ (in fact, a ballet shoe on one foot), implicitly implying the normal honesty and sound reasoning of those most blinkered, wee souls, the primordial fantasists of truculent atheism, as a given.

    Above all, in this defining issue of reliance on evidence, which all but defines empirical science, for sheer chutzpah, that takes some beating.

  5. 5
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    VJT: While the age of the universe is not a good objection to fine-tuning as such, it does pose a genuine puzzle if we suppose the Designer to be omnipotent.

    So why suppose it then?

  6. 6
    scordova says:

    Creationist are a mixed bag. You have some that were home grown in a fundamentalist sheltered Bible environment and then you have converts from atheist lifestyles and households. I’m somewhat in between. The clips seemed to be almost all of the home grown variety!

    If I had to criticize my creationists brethren, I’d say, many of the home grown variety don’t seem to live by the ID calling of “follow the evidence where it leads”, but rather “reinterpret the evidence to conform to the way you understand the Bible, don’t even entertain or seriously consider critical arguments. The Bible is fact, fact, fact. And why is the Bible fact, fact, fact. It says so! And I’m just going to close my eyes and trust it.”

    That approach will work for some, but not for others. Certainly not me. Why? I had friends putting their lives in peril in the mission field, I have some moral obligation to make sure if I encourage them to do so, that I’ve examined the case for Christianity to be sure it is really worth dying for versus being a fable. Part of that is design argument, to a lesser extent, 6-day creationism.

    I find it loathesome trying to prove young Earth by the Bible.

    Whatever happened to follow the evidence where it leads? If the evidence accords more with design, creation, the flood, young universe, all the better for the Bible. If one just believes the Bible because they believe the Bible, that doesn’t strike me as anything I want to be a part of, much less encourage my missionary friends to their death in muslim or other closed lands.

    There is a very good case to be made the geocentrism is the natural reading of the Bible, but a natural reading is not necessarily the correct reading. I think God would expect us to use our senses and capabilities to figure out if the world is heliocentric or geocentric. Same with the other questions of creationism.

    I have my beliefs, but I have trouble with the rush to judgment about the age and structure of the universe based solely on theology. A culture of presumption and obliviousness to empirical measurement doesn’t inspire a lot of trust.

    I explore YEC because I’d like to be reassured I’m understanding the Bible correctly. It bothers me that some are so self-assured of their understanding they don’t possibly question or re-check whether there is some flaw in their own understanding. Not only do we owe it to ourselves to be skeptical of our beliefs, but especially to those whom we encourage to convert or remain in the faith at the cost of their lives like in Iran or Saudi Arabia or wherever. I couldn’t live with myself just putting blinders on for the sake of making my life simpler, I want to hear both sides, even questions about the authenticity of the Bible.

    Sadly, my attitude is frowned upon the YEC community, I get labeled as some sort of compromiser trying to kiss up to secular academia. 🙄

    My current view as I read the evidence:

    1. design is true

    2. Darwinian mechanisms are false

    3. universal common descent is falsified

    4. the ages of the fossil record are at least inconclusive and likely young based on C14 dating and basic particle segregation experiments carried out at places like the University of Colorado.

    5. special creation of man recently is better explanation than evolving from apes based on Genetic Entropy arguments, further genetic entropy is a empirically testable hypothesis

    6. there was a great cataclysm in the past, likely a flood that created the features of the geological record

    7. the Ark story is still out of reach of science, but maybe Genesis 10, the table of nations can be confirmed by genetics, the rest of the account might have to be taken on faith, we’ll see….

    8. we live on a privilege planet in a privileged time

    9. the solar system has features that suggest special creation rather than planetary evolution (I came to believe this ironically after reading Solar System Evolution by a defender of planetary evolution, Stuart Ross Taylor)

    10. The truthfulness of the Big Bang is an open question, the interpretation of redshifts as relative motion is suspect. I got doubts about the Big Bang from secular source not the least which were professors at one of my alma mater like Menas Kafatos, Sisir Roy, and to a far lesser extent my beloved professor, James Trefil. Curiously, both Dr. Sheldon and I are skeptical of Dark Energy.

    11. The universe has finite age based on thermodynamics, you don’t need the Big Bang to argue the universe had a beginning, it proceeds straight from thermodynamics in as much as stars can’t burn forever! One doesn’t need the Big Bang either to make many of the same fine tuning arguments. The most important ones will hold independent of one’s cosmology, especially the ones affecting chemistry!

    12. The age of the Earth is an open question, and we have conflicting data points.

    13. The age of the Universe suggests it is old based on distant starlight, but again, there are few weak datapoints to the contrary.

    My mind certainly can be changed, and I’ve given my opponents lots of opportunity to give contrary arguments, particularly about design, but when I saw their behavior regarding simple questions about 500 coins, they pretty much convinced me the design argument is solid and that they have no ammunition to over turn it.

    Special creation, the great flood, the age of the universe, those are still speculative but promising areas of exploration. I accept the YEC model with a mustard seed of faith because there is just enough favorable evidence to make me accept the natural reading of Genesis. But that view can change.

    That said, I believe Jesus is real and rose from the dead, and because the historical record suggests this, I accept the New Testament, and because I accept the New Testament, I accept the Old Testament. And added to that, I have personal experience of answered prayer and the work of miracles by God in the live of people in the present day.


    I was hoping the UD community would get something out of an account of de-conversion by Passerby11 who went from YEC to atheism:

    PasserBy11s comment, well said

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    She takes ‘damning with faint praise’ to a new level that I have never seen (or could have conceived of, to my shame, since as Einstein once remarked, human folly is infinite).

    It is surely a special gift to be able to depict black as white in such a bold and discursive fashion; and then to compliment the non colour-blind and fully-sighted for, at least, trying…

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    I can’t understand why the historicity or otherwise of, say, the book of Job or of Jonah – most of Genesis if it comes to that – should be significant to the reader. They are related to us more importantly as lessons.

    But putative ‘improbability’, as defined by atheists, should never be heeded, any more than a toddler’s instruction to its parents. I can’t see a reason to doubt the story of Adam and Eve, but the principle of mankind’s Fall from grace is what is important, not the actions of the fauna and nature of the flora.

  9. 9
    littlejohn says:

    VJTorley and Scordova,

    Thank you for that posts, they are very informative and helpful.

    The following question is for YEC’s- What do you think about the dating of the Clovis culture, and other human civilizations that have been found all over the world that are significantly older than 6k years?

    This of course would also apply to every dating test ever conducted. It just seems so very unlikely that the dating methods are so terribly flawed; and, for any date significantly beyond 6K years, a fail 100% of the time?

  10. 10
    scordova says:

    A young earth creationist might still argue that a miraculously created universe that was only 6,000 years old would constitute an even clearer sign of the Designer’s existence than a finely tuned old cosmos. My answer is that it would indeed, if we had some independent way of knowing that the universe was indeed young. (To argue for this fact on the authority of Scripture would of course be question-begging, if one were trying to convince an atheist of God’s existence, as the atheist would not accept Scripture as an “independent way of knowing.”)

    Well said. If the distant starlight problem were solved that would be a start. The next step is to determine if the Spiral Arms of galaxies really would come apart over 1 revolution, that would prove the universe is no older than 1 million years, that the Galaxies are specially created.

    The Lord may have left clocks for us to help us determine the universal age, we just have to find them.

    The weak evidences favoring a YEC resolution to the distant starlight problem:

    1. Galactic structures should follow an evolutionary sequence the farther you look out, it doesn’t, it suggests some mechanism of fast transport of light, but that is speculative.

    2. Stellar distances are still open to debate, starting with Quasar distances billed to be 10 Giga light years away which some secular astronomers argue are only hundreds of light years away. The lack of time dilation in deeply redshifted quasars is evidence against the Big Bang, and then if redshift cannot be equated to velocity, the cosmological expansion falls apart, and if cosmological expansion falls apart we can’t use redshift to estimate distance either!

    3. I’m trying to get info on absolute versus relative parallax and baseline interferometry in measurement of stellar distances. A few people smell a rat in the stellar distance ladder. We’ll see. Nothing should be sacrosanct in cosmology. What if the stars and galaxies are a lot closer than you suppose. I provided data points at UD that suggested quasars billed to be 10 Giga Light years away are only hundreds of light years away, maybe closer.

    4. If we find evidence of an entrained aether, whoa, that will change a lot, not the least of which General Relativity which is relevant to cosmology. Suggested experiments have been proposed to redo Michelson-Morley using refractive media, and I was impressed with the work of Demjanov.

    The other major problem for YEC is long term and intermediate term radiometric dating. Short term (C14) dating favors some YEC models (recent flood), but the long term radiometric dates and intermediate term dates are a very serious problem, a potential deal breaker for YEC.

    I’ve held out some hope based on the nucleo-synthesis studies of the Proton-21 laboratory in the Ukraine, that radiation can be created from electrical, mechanical, biological sources and this has bearing on the dating of the Earth. See my account of a term paper I wrote my professor on the topic (with my head in hand for such heresy):
    Can Nuclear Structure be affected by Electrical, Chemical and Biological Means


    Scientific research which YECs and the mainstream can do for the benefit of society

    One notable highlight was that nuclear decay was accelerated by a factor of 6-trillion!

    So I hold out hope for a solution for long term radiometric dating.

    OK, here is some indirect evidence for a Young Solar system. You have to read in between the lines and you’ll see it!

    Nature Makes an ID Friendly Report, (officially it’s not YEC friendly) 😉

    But these are all weak and sketchy data points. They are strong enough that I would, in good conscience, say we can’t be sure of either long ages or recent ages. Nothing is a done deal as far as evidence. YEC isn’t ruled out, but neither is it confirmed. That’s good enough for me at this time.

  11. 11
    OldArmy94 says:

    A materialist feminist? It seems to me that Marcotte is wasting her time; after all, what good is it for a determined Darwinian to also wave the flag for women’s rights? Doesn’t she understand the cognitive incoherence of believing that she can elevate the female of our species despite the billions of years of evolution and its decision to make the male the greater of the two? I believe that Ms. Marcotte should spend less time with creationism and more time exploring her own illogical constructs.

  12. 12
    scordova says:


    The Clovis culture and other civilizations are dated by C14. Many creationists think C14 is reasonably accurate to establish recent dates in general, but that improved estimates of previous C14 levels in the atmosphere will refine the dates to less than 6,000 years.

    Example, C14 says most fossils (even Cambrian era fossils billed to be 500,000,000 years old) are only 50,000 years old at best. This still isn’t within the YEC window, but it is an improvement.

    They will have to make a case why the number needs to be adjusted to a younger date by as much as a factor of 10. I guess they are still in celebration mode over the fact they were able to demonstrate 500,000,000 year-old-fossils are younger than 100,000 years. They still have some work to do to get it to less than 6,000.

    At this point, the improvement in age measurement from 500,000,000 to 100,000 is plenty good for me to believe they YECs have a decent case and that they will eventually find resolution. We’ll see. No need to settle the issues in the space of this discussion.

  13. 13
    fossil says:

    I am responding to this post because I am a creationist, in fact, probably considered a YEC because I don’t believe life on earth is millions of years old which seems to be backed up by a lot of substantial scientific evidence. Even with that belief I am still not in the same mindset as other creationists that insist that the universe has to be young. I don’t think the Bible has to be interpreted the way most YEC’s interpret it.

    There is so much I could comment on but I will confine what I say to a few main additional points. First of all I believe what I believe not because I am afraid of the big bad Darwin or that I think God is going to get me if I disagree with the Bible on a few things but because as I see the world around me, logically, it drives me to certain conclusions and Darwinian evolution is not one of them. What I like about ID is that it is logical and based on scientific observation rather than theory born out of the loony bin. That doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that is said but at least I do concerning most of it. I also think ID serves very well to back up most of creationist claims about a Creator so I am very thankful for the ID movement.

    To the question, “Why would an omnipotent Intelligent Designer take billions of years to make a universe, when He could do the job instantly?” To me He could have but then I keep asking myself if God is from everlasting (Ps 90:1-2; Mic 5:2; Ps 93:2) what was He doing for billions of years, nothing? The big bang in of itself doesn’t bother me except that inflation is a theory that requires a lot of dark matter and dark energy which scientists are not finding, at least not anywhere close to the amount that is needed for the theory to meet observation. To all of the scientific community who was not there in the beginning to document what happened I think silence is golden and as far as argumentation about the age of the universe goes I think it has done nothing but hurt both creationists and the ID community and has given the materialists a splitting wedge and a foot in the door.

    Concerning the cause of fine tuning I think it pretty much depends on our world view. If God is what creationists think He is then ID answers the question because the universe which is based on information could only have come about by intelligence from what we know which means design and design can produce maturity at any level at any time. If we go with the materialists then we are left with the daunting question concerning the immense improbability of chance being the cause.

    “I should add that there is scant Scriptural support for the notion that there was no animal death before the Fall – let alone no animal suffering.” True as far as it goes but then why wasn’t meat a part of man’s diet before the flood (Gen 9:3 compare with Gen 1:29-30 where only vegetable matter was given to both man and beast for food at the time of creation)?

    As for P.Z. Myers, I think the man is so far out in left field both scientifically and socially that I would have a hard time finding him so I intent to simply let him stay there munching on locoweed.

  14. 14
    littlejohn says:


    Thank you for the explanation/clarification. So, in your opinion, the older dates may have been established using universally flawed methodologies, and eventually, new or better testing procedures could be developed that may verify a literal interpretation of the biblical calendar?

    What leads you to believe the YEC test results are more reliable at this point in time?

  15. 15
    drc466 says:

    Two things:

    First, regarding Ms. Marcotte – when it comes to “fear”, I would hazard a guess that she has rarely, if ever, done anything as courageous as admit on camera to a belief as widely ridiculed in the popular media as creationism. I’m also guessing this is a case of accusing someone else of something you are personally guilty of. All of the fears she lists are some form of projection I’d say, but the “blind obedience to authority” and “fear of death” are particularly ludicrous. After all, blind obedience of authority would mean accepting Evolution not being a creationist, and if Christians fear death, there’s not really any reason for them to continue being Christians, is there? I “fear” most creationists would find Ms. Marcotte’s comments amusing. I’m guessing Ms. Marcotte doesn’t personally know any creationists…

    Second, unlike Sal, I’m a “Bible first, science second” YEC’er. This is primarily (and happily) a Faith position, but before I get the pitying nod and sad shake of the head, let me provide for you a rational, logical reason WHY I’m a Bible first person (in addition to simple faith).
    If there is anything I have learned over the years, it’s that “science” changes its mind constantly, stinks at proving anything historical, acts like supporting evidence is conclusive and undeniable while contradictory evidence is practically irrelevant, and is more political than politics. The Bible, on the other hand, has been repeatedly proven correct (c.f. Hittites et. al.).
    Take, for example, the age of the earth. Simple question – how many different age indicators provide a 4.5B year age for the earth? How many indicate something different? How many assumptions are required to provide the 4.5B year age? “Science” uses one mathematical equation with three unknowns (anyone remember their algebra?) to “prove” the world is 4.5B years old, and ignores all the dozens of contradictory indications, and yet demands that I accept the 4.5B date as “fact”.
    On the other side of the equation, I have a document that claims to be historically accurate, has been repeatedly proven so by archaeology, and even has the support of fulfilled prophecy (c.f. Isaiah, Daniel, and the Dead Sea Scrolls) – something no other book can claim.
    So yeah – I’mma take the Bible’s word over “science”. Are there facts that appear contradictory? Sure there are – but there is more than enough room for doubt and contradictions to the contradictions to make the benefit of the doubt easy.

  16. 16
    drc466 says:

    Quick follow-up,

    I should point out that I understand that Sal isn’t really saying we should take the word of the science community over the Bible, but that we need to use our logic and understanding of science to temper our interpretation of the Bible (at least, that’s what I think he’s saying). I’m still to the faith-side of that viewpoint – I provide more weight to a literal interpretation of the Bible than to what the raw data appears to be saying (e.g. distant starlight and billions of years of radioactive decay).

  17. 17
    scordova says:

    What leads you to believe the YEC test results are more reliable at this point in time?

    The most important thing is that it is the mainstream that has been forced to admit serious anomalies. The initial measurements of C14 in fossils wasn’t by YECs but by the mainstream. It became a major embarrassment.

    So lets say both the YECs are wrong and the mainstream are wrong, who is at least closer to the truth? The mainstream found C14 in the carboniferous era (300 million years) ago, and their own C14 date would say it is only 50,000 years ago. So, its not exactly the 6,000 years the YECs want, but its a bigger embarrassment to the mainstream that that they are off by 300,000,000 years when the YECs are off by only 44,000 years. It’s gotten so bad that they actively refuse to make C14 tests anymore because just about every fossil (even those that are supposed to be 500,000,000 old) are returning dates less than 100,000 years.

    Next is that DNA half-life is now established around 521 years, but yet we find DNA in fossils supposedly tens of millions of years old.

    Similar issues with amino acids in the proteins.

    As a matter of principle, fossils must be buried quickly for them to fossilize (lest the get decomposed or eaten or other wise erased). Even in principle, layers containing fossils cannot form over millions of years, it MUST happen rapidly.

    Finally, here is 30 minute video that shows how rock strata form in a matter of minutes under the influence of water.
    Here is the video where you can see with your own eyes strata forming in lab experiments! After seeing actual fast stratification experiments, it actually becomes increasingly hard not to believe the strata were laid down quickly.

    Drama in the Rocks

    It is logically possible the Earth and Universe are Billions of years old, but the fossils in the fossil record are recent. I’d say, mainstream science supports this view quite well if one finds a young universe and young earth indefensible — you can still assume a recent fossil record caused by a flood.

  18. 18
    scordova says:

    I should point out that I understand that Sal isn’t really saying we should take the word of the science community over the Bible

    There is an important distinction between the word of the science community and the testimony of actual facts. I’m a facts first person, word second.

    Even the Bible in sections doesn’t expect prospective believers to accept every claim made in the name of God, especially since there are false prophets. Jesus said, “though you do not take me at once on my own word – believe the works” John 10:38. So it is perfectly legitimate to look for empirical evidence of Jesus being who he said he was. Actually in some cases one will be confronted with it, even without looking!

    And there was a time in my life I was a near agnostic with hope running out. My criteria for returning to the faith was not absolute proof, but proof good enough that one could in good conscience encourage a loved-one on a mission for Christ that might cost them their lives.

    It’s one thing to have a intellectual discussion about theology, quite another if it may mean you are party to sending someone to die for a cause that you worry is just a myth….

    Many years ago I wondered if Jesus was just a myth, and all I had to go on was any data point I could grab a hold of. But I plodded along slowly, and ID became evident, so did special creation, then the possibility of a Young Earth. With belief in a creator I began to revisit question about the canon of the Bible…

    I then found believable answers to the problem of evil and the hiddenness of God. But even through all the doubts, one thing was in evidence, there was no salvation in Charles Darwin, and for all the glory of science or any earthly enterprise, there is no salvation for the soul in any of them. If one is going to wager on a theory, at least wager on one that didn’t have a guaranteed zero payoff, and naturalism had a guaranteed zero-payoff.

  19. 19
    tragic mishap says:

    These people never come to me and ask me dumb questions on recorded video. I’m a sad panda. 🙁

    If someone asked me how I would respond if the Bible said 2 + 2 = 5, I would ask them what they would do if Science said 2 + 2 = 5. They might respond that Science doesn’t say that. The only response from me would be an ironic smile. If they pressed the issue and said that maybe they would rethink their faith in Science, I would pull out my copy of Road to Reality by Roger Penrose and turn to the page where he says that in some cases 2 + 2 = 5 for sufficiently large values of 2. Then I would say, “And now we find out that you were lying to me, so why should I answer your question?”

  20. 20
    bornagain77 says:

    Lawrence Krauss Denies Classical Logic and Says 2+2=5! – Dr. Craig – video

  21. 21
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Sal,

    Thanks for your interesting posts. I am mildly intrigued by the scientific arguments for YEC: the presence of carbon-14 in Carboniferous coal deposits; the reported presence of DNA in dinosaur bones; the claim that rotating galaxies would rapidly fall apart; and the presence of fully-formed galaxies at a very early stage of the universe’s development. I don’t regard any of these arguments as conclusive – indeed, I’d say they’re almost certainly wrong. Still, I have to admit that I might be wrong, too.

    Like you, I think we should follow the scientific evidence wherever it leads. By the way, here’s a reference you might want to follow up:

    It would be interesting to get hold of that report. I believe Holmes’ papers are kept at the University of Edinburgh. You might like to try. Just a suggestion.


  22. 22
    vjtorley says:

    Hi fossil and dr466,

    Thank you for your posts. You make a valid point when you observe that scientific conclusions are often revised, however:

    “Radiometric dating continues to be the predominant way scientists date geologic timescales. Techniques for radioactive dating have been tested and fine-tuned for the past 50+ years. Forty or so different dating techniques have been utilized to date, working on a wide variety of materials. Dates for the same sample using these different techniques are in very close agreement on the age of the material.

    “Possible contamination problems do exist, but they have been studied and dealt with by careful investigation, leading to sample preparation procedures being minimized to limit the chance of contamination.” ( )

    dr466 writes:

    “I provide more weight to a literal interpretation of the Bible than to what the raw data appears to be saying (e.g. distant starlight and billions of years of radioactive decay).”

    Fair enough. But a literal interpretation of the Bible would mean that “day” simply means the time taken for the Earth to rotate, as that’s the only definition that could apply to Days 1-3 in Genesis. But if the Earth’s rotation is slowing (as we now know it is), then we need a different definition of “day”, in order to make sense of that fact. How do you account for that?

  23. 23
    drc466 says:

    Dr. Torley,

    Thanks for the response. WRT radioactive decay and the age of the earth, I believe the current YEC understanding is that yes, approximately 4.5Ga-worth of radioactive decay has occurred in the earth’s radioactive materials. Obviously we don’t believe this corresponds to an actual 4.5Ga time period – current research efforts are focused on conditions that cause accelerated decay (see, e.g. radiohalos in RATE report below). We don’t consider the radioactive decay measure conclusive, as there are significant other age indicators that are discordant. For a more comprehensive rundown, please see the RATE report of
    RATE Report
    Regarding some of the other indications of a young earth, or more especially, young life on earth, I personally find the recent discoveries of Dinosaur DNA to be fascinating. There’s a decent comprehensive list available here:
    Dinosaur DNA
    I hope you do dig into other indicators of young age, such as the ubiquity of C14, as I think you’ll find them compelling when viewed with an open mind.
    As for your question regarding the definition of a “day” – I’m perfectly comfortable with using initial conditions as the definition – when Genesis refers to a “day”, it is the amount of time corresponding to one full rotation of the earth at the time the earth was created. Similar to when Job references “leviathan” and “behemoth” – they would be references to the animal that existed at the time, which may or may not exist today.

  24. 24
    scordova says:

    Hi VJTorley,

    I’ve alluded to a serious problem for YEC, and that is intermediate term radio-isotopes. Here is one of the most brutal anti-YEC arguments I’m aware of:

    Isotope List

    I don’t regard any of these arguments as conclusive – indeed, I’d say they’re almost certainly wrong. Still, I have to admit that I might be wrong, too.

    Like you, I think we should follow the scientific evidence wherever it leads. By the way, here’s a reference you might want to follow up:…..ric_dating

    I could be wrong too, and I think the state of affairs I’d say from a data standpoint, the opposing viewpoints are at a stalemate.

    My benchmark for worthiness of an idea is what I’d bet my mom’s life on.

    I’d bet my mom’s life and soul that Jesus is the Christ and who he claimed to be. I’d be my mom’s life on Design. I wouldn’t think to bet my mom’s life on YEC even though I believe YEC is true.

    The isotope list link is one of the reasons I think it unwise to rush to judgment, and that it is better to keep gathering evidence, and follow the evidence where it leads.

    And again, formally speaking, the age of the fossils is not the same as the age of the Earth. The radiometric dates of the age of the Earth do not establish time of death of the fossils. As I’ve often said, a living dog can be buried in billion year old rocks, it doesn’t establish the time of death as a billion years ago.

    I think a defensible position is OEC plus a recent flood.

  25. 25
    JGuy says:

    Thanks for posting that. I’d like to look more closely at it for different reasons than a problem, but rather an opportunity. But first look at the argument, it doesn’t place any additional brutality to YEC. It’s a problem that is already an intrinsic part of the existing old age radio-isotope dates. If anything, it’s more evidence that the radioactive decay has occurred. But this is already the general position of many if not most/all YEC scientists.

    Consider, for example, the He diffusion experiment regarding in zircons. In one of the RATE books, they describe that they went so far as to prove the U decay actually did occurred – they did this by counting fission tracks. With the view then that the decay actually had occurred, accelerated nuclear decay was proposed.

    I realize this may seem an unpalatable position, given the heat it would produce. However, there are theoretic solutions. One mentioned in the RATe literature was echoing my immediate thoughts. Thus, my favored is the expansion of the actual fabric of space to absorb the energy – reminiscent to me of how super critical water expansion in Walt Browns model cools (just different). Interestingly, if you read back some years ago, I’ve proposed some arm chair ideas about how a similar idea might affect c. Who knows, there might be a workable solution by them all.

    This is why I think that isotope list is interesting. There might be something that can be gleaned from it that unexpectedly works in favor of a YEC model.

  26. 26
    JGuy says:

    p.s. one of the first things I’d like to do with that is compare those isotopes with the relative abundance of the element it is on earth. But I imagine that would be very difficult since they are all probably very rare already – maybe too small with not much room for error bars.

  27. 27
    littlejohn says:

    Which stones and manuscripts do we use in order to formulate our literal interpretation of history? Does not recorded history vary widely in the last 4,500 years, even among those to whom it has been delivered?

    Jesus said to look to the scriptures to understand time.

    “For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” Psalm 90:4

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