This post was originally written as a response to Barry’s recent post; however, Barry correctly pointed out that I had significantly mis-read him – I was reading much too fast. Apologies to Barry, and to those who read the earlier version of the post. I have now re-written it to not refer to (my careless misreading of) Barry’s position. I hope it still provides something helpful.
As a YEC, when listening to opposing positions, I sometimes hear a combination of criticism of the YEC framework, combined with talk of logic and evidence as an alternative to having an interpretative framework. This is philosophically very naive. It is talk which is especially prominent amongst the New Atheist crowd. Listening to them, you get to understand that they (alone!) are the exponents of logic and evidence; everybody else is blinded by their religion (which we might call, their ‘interpretative framework’). The reality is that everybody has an interpretative framework. The only difference is the degrees to which you are a) aware of it and b) consistent with it.
As a YEC, I believe that the correct use of logic is to honour God, who is the source and ultimate, perfect, exemplification of logic. He is a God of order and structure, and wishes his creation to be orderly and structured too. God is the ultimate grounding for logic. To frame the issue in terms of “these guys have an interpretative framework… whereas I use logic and evidence” is a statement right out of the phrase-book of positivism and scientism which should have no place on the side of those of us who oppose both of those as false and busted philosophies. We all have interpretative frameworks. Logic and evidence do whatever work they do, for all of us, within one of those frameworks.
This is not to retreat into a postmodern relativism – not all frameworks are equal, and neither can we simply abandon discussion and comparison of them as if they were all equally valid, or if comparison were impossible. Frameworks can easily be fundamentally false. Someone may believe that the YEC paradigm (which is, at root, that the Bible is the final authority, and that the correct interpretation of any one part of the Bible is provided by other parts of the Bible) is false; but he cannot simply say that it is false because some pile of uninterpreted evidence proves it to be so. There is no uninterpreted evidence. This would be to make the beginner’s mistake of believing that your framework is so obviously true, that it needs no explanation – that which counts as evidence within that framework ought to be evidence for all, because, hey, it’s just evidence!
In an earlier post on UD, I provided the beginnings of an explanation as to why I embrace the framework that I, as a YEC, do. This teases out some of these issues at greater length. On the issue of starlight and time, I am not a specialist, but have written on the reasons why simplistic appeals to uninterpreted evidence do not work on my own personal blog, here.
I’d like also to note in passing that one of the most common appeals to “simple evidence” isn’t quite as simple as it seems. It’s commonly accepted that the edge of the observable universe is approximately around 45 billion light years away; whilst the age is accepted as around 15 billion light years. That’s a 30 billion year difference. The difference in those two figures is explained within the Big Bang paradigm via the expansion of the universe itself. But, when you are in a context where that paradigm itself is being disputed, an appeal to it as the basis for interpreting your evidence is viciously circular. Personally, I see no logical or philosophical problem in appealing to a sequence of unique, extraordinary and unrepeatable events in creation week, and no ultimate conceptual difference compared with appealing to a sequence of such events in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang. The debate is not over to whether there were such events; just which ones. But keep your eyes on the ball: my point here is not to argue that this or that explanation is wrong, or that no plausible solution exists; I am not a cosmologist. Rather, it’s to point out that some kind of explanation is needed, and that explanation will need to rely on further assumptions, which may themselves be open to question. The evidence needed some interpreting, and plenty of nuance. The evidence is complex, not simple, and even in this ‘canonical’ example we can begin to see that.
Returning from that diversion to the basic and underlying issues, if you’ve got time to get your teeth into something longer, then this presentation from 6 years ago, whilst addressing a different audience, is less ad-hoc than my blog posts.
This all makes the debate more complex. Rather than being able to simply pose ‘logic/evidence versus interpretative frameworks’, you have to instead articulate more of your own framework, and to think about how to compare different frameworks, in ways that don’t simply beg the question. I don’t propose to do that now; but if we can at least consider these preliminary points, then it’ll be a good step towards mutual understanding in the camp.