Why I am not a young Earth creationist (YEC)
|June 30, 2013||Posted by News under Creationism, Intelligent Design|
From O’Leary: Recently, I promised I’d say a bit about that, and a bit is all I am going to say.
It is much more difficult to explain why you are not something than why you are something.
Usually, a person is not something because of an infinite array of counterfactuals. But what the person is, is factuals, which are often quite easy to explain. (= I know that town because I grew up there. I got a scholarship for the X program, not another one. I moved to the city to find a job. I went to the Billy Graham Crusade. Etc.)
So, a little background: I grew up in communities where most people held contradictory views of the history of life. That is, they believed in Adam and Eve and also in The Caveman.
If this bifurcation seems counterintuitive, consider that a human being can easily espouse contradictory views on the same subject, so long as the views are not a source of conflict in himself or his community, such that he is forced to choose between them. And they weren’t, with us.
In public schools in the 1960s, we memorized passages from the Bible and sang hymns. The mainline denomination my cradle Catholic parents had joined when I was a small child had no problem with Darwinian evolution, even for the origin of life, that I ever heard of. But we still learned about Adam and Eve from Sunday School teachers.
One town in particular was a respectable working class community where intellectuals were rare. One resident was something of a mystery to us because he taught at the university. Who knows, he might have raised a question, but no one else did. Like most Canadians, we believed in “peace, order, and good government”, and simply did not raise issues where the public welfare was not at stake. Putting Adam and Eve to a vote against The Caveman would have seemed an utterly needless contention.
It makes for a much less dynamic society than the U.S., compensated for by a much lower rate of crime and violence.
I only had occasion to become aware of YEC in the 2000’s, while indexing books written by authors of that persuasion for a religious publishing house. Now, an indexer skim reads (to avoid starvation) but I gathered that these authors thought the authority of Scripture as divine revelation was the principle issue at stake. If the first few verses of Genesis were not to be understood literally, the whole edifice would fall apart.
Later, I learned more about YEC. For example, the role of water engineer Henry Morris in creating its theoretical basis after World War II. Indeed, I ended up writing several chapters of By Design or by Chance? on young Earth creationism. These chapters were aimed at people who, like me, were neither foes nor fans, but wanted to know why people they respected were concerned enough to espouse it. At any rate, what was clear to me was that the need for YEC, quite apart from evidence for it, depends on taking a specific view about how Scripture is to be read, a view I didn’t happen to take.
The evidence may be good; I am no judge of that. I use NASA’s dating because it is widely accepted and comprehensible. I can (and have) written a “stasis” chart, listing life forms I have heard about that are unchanged over vast periods of time and through many ecological developments. The chart uses NASA’s dating. But many science-based estimates of Earth’s age have been offered over the decades. And for all I know, NASA will one day announce that Earth is really only 100 million years old or maybe 10 billion, and I must then recalibrate it all, based on what they say afterward.
By now, you may get at least some sense of why ID supporters generally don’t fight among ourselves about the matter. Why bother? We are united by the perception that Darwinism and its offspring are just one of many current melds between science and crackpot metaphysics (one could add multiverses, “evolutionary” psychology, and “the mind is just the brain buzzing” neuroscience to the list). Darwinism happens to be the meld that we, as a community, know the most about.
For example, if you wanted to know more about what’s wrong with “the mind is just the brain buzzing” neuroscience, you would do better to talk to “mindfulness” neuroscientists than us. There is overlap, of course. I myself am co-author of The Spiritual Brain. But they are a whole separate group engaged with that issue.
Incidentally, it certainly doesn’t help Darwinism’s reputation to be infested by atheist trolls who broadcast their anti-religious opinions in foul language, then hypocritically obsess about other people’s religious commitments, generally uglifying public debate.
One can’t help but ask, what kind of “science” attracts such people? A range of reasonable answers to that question is quite short. And it does not make Darwinism sound like a science so much as a metaphysic for trolls.
Of course not everyone who believes in Darwinism is by any means a troll. But if you have condemned yourself to being a troll, please do be a Darwinist. Rant and curse, and try to get books suppressed—and let the rest of us get on trying to understand the true history of evolution in relation to the creation and flow of information, of which Darwin did not dream.
Now, I slowly made my way back to the Catholic Church, and am a Catholic in communion with the Church. Traditional Catholics have a very high view of Scripture, as will be evident to anyone who pays attention at Mass.
But we tend to interpret Scripture on many levels (literal, mystical, allegorical, anagogical, for example, just to start).
The Church takes no official position on the age of Earth. Its position on evolution generally has been grossly misrepresented, whether intentionally or from ignorance or from—I suspect this is most common—the deception of Catholic Darwinist academics. See, for example Douglas Futuyma whose simply wrong comments may well stem from the third cause.
So, yes, a Catholic can be a YEC in good faith, and some are. Most are not. The Catholic approach to Scripture does not drive us in the direction of making a formal decision in such matters.
(Believe you me: When the Church thinks she must make a formal, official decision, via an Encyclical—a letter addressed to all Catholics—she just does, and damn the torpedoes.)
So there it is. That is why I am not a YEC, and also don’t have a problem with people who are.