Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Invoking miracles does not explain away the fact of an ancient universe or an evolving creation

When confronted either with the evidence that confirms the reality of an ancient universe, or with fundamental flaws in their attempts to explain away this evidence, Young Earth creationists will often invoke miracles such as Jesus' raising of the Lazarus or his feeding of five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. It is hard not to get exasperated with arguments such as this which are simply non sequiturs, a fact which can be readily demonstrated by the example of a geocentrist or flat earth advocate who tried to explain away the evidence against their views by appealing to the miracle of the loaves and fishes. There is simply no correlation between the two, and the desperate invocation of miracles comes across as a distraction to avoid dealing with evidence which destroys the YEC worldview.

I certainly do not deny a priori the possibility of miracles, but when all the evidence confirms the reality of an ancient universe, appealing to the possibility of miracles will not make this evidence go away. If anything, they pose considerable theological problems for the YEC advancing them as they are essentially arguing that God has deliberately deceived us by creating the entire universe 6000 years ago, then deliberately engineering it to look ancient, with distances measured via cosmological red shift, stellar candles, and stellar parallaxes consistent with a universe far older. Ditto for the Earth: this argument would also require the creator to create a 6000 year old earth in which false radionuclide-derived ages were embedded in rocks, along with fake evidence of common descent in the biogeographic distribution of species, the myriad transitional fossils, and the stunning consonance between morphological and molecule phylogenetic trees. There is simply no reason why a creator would make an entire universe 6000 years ago, then fake a 13 billion year history for the universe, a 4.6 billion years history for the Earth, and an evolutionary natural history, and an evolutionary natural history for its specially created life.

This argument is not new; in 1857 marine biologist Philip Gosse wrote Omphalos, in which he argued that God created everything with the appearance of age. His argument was poorly received, even by fellow believers such as Charles Kingsley who wrote:
Shall I tell you the truth? It is best. Your book is the first that ever made me doubt, and I fear it will make hundreds do so. Your book tends to prove this — that if we accept the fact of absolute creation, God becomes Deus quidam deceptor [‘God who is sometimes a deceiver’]. I do not mean merely in the case of fossils which pretend to be the bones of dead animals; but in the one single case of your newly created scars on the pandanus trunk, your newly created Adam's navel, you make God tell a lie. It is not my reason, but my conscience which revolts here... I cannot... believe that God has written on the rocks one enormous and superfluous lie for all mankind. (Bold emphasis mine)
Gosse's 'appearance of age' argument was rightly rejected in the 19th century. It is a tragedy to see Christadelphians advancing long-rejected arguments, and in the process bringing our community into disrepute by linking it irrevocably with obscurantism, poor scholarship, and the idolising of uninformed personal opinion over evidence.