As a card carrying creationist, I’ve sometimes wanted to post about my reservations regarding the search for evidence of Intelligent Design (ID) and some of the rottenness in the search for evidence in young earth creation. I’ve refrained from speaking my mind on these matters too frequently lest I ruffle the feathers of the few friends I have left in the world (the ID community and the creationist community). But I must speak out and express criticism of my own side of the aisle on occasion.
Before proceeding, I’d like to thank Elizabeth for her hospitality in letting me post here. She invited me to post some things regarding my views of Natural Selection and Genetic Algorithms, but in the spirit of skepticism I want to offer criticism of some of my own ideas.So this essay will sketch what I consider valid criticism of ID, creationism in general and Young Earth Creationism (YEC) in particular.
Take any of the accepted laws of physics, like say the classic one, F=ma in classical mechanics. The physical behavior requires no Intelligent Designer. This is true of every physical law. I recall a professor of physics saying, “after Newton there was no need of witches or of God”. What she meant, it seems to me, is God was irrelevant to understanding physical law. Invoking God doesn’t give further insight to understanding physics.
Only in some controversial interpretations of Quantum Mechanics will some physicists even dare to argue God exists. Such arguments have been put forward by Richard Conn Henry, John Barrow, Frank Tipler, FJ Belinfante etc. See:
But that is the crux of the problem. If the Intelligent Designer is not the focus of physics, and physics underlies all the sciences, then how can ID then be incorporated into science? In that regard, I’m mostly ambivalent to arguing whether ID is science or not.
Like the play “Waiting for Godot”, we are “Waiting for the Intelligent Designer”. I reject the notion that one can apply stone henge as evidence of intelligent design and then make an equally believable case that one can look at the intricacies of the cell and conclude the Intelligent Designer exists. When I was an engineering student, I would be subject to examination to demonstrate that I could make designs. Human made designs are thus subject to independent verification. We can subject those sort of intelligent designers to field laboratory testing, we cannot do so regarding the supposed Intelligent Designer of the universe and life. This lack of direct testability will always leave quite a bit of room for skepticism, if not some inclination for outright rejection, no matter how powerful the arguments are against chemical and biological evolution.
If God were continually making miracles like he did in the time of Moses, we might not be having these debates, but as for now He has chosen to remain hidden from observation and experiment which are the foundations of science.
These criticism of ID will apply to creationism and particularly young earth creationism. Even supposing miracles are real, by their very nature, miracles will elude repeatability (that’s why they are miracles!). The most we can hope for is to use science to demonstrate that an unusual mechanism had to be responsible for certain phenomena. You can pretty much forget being able to create experiments that will require the Intellgent Designer to appear in the laboratory or in the field. Not even creationists will argue for that possibility.
But that is not my worst complaint about the enterprise of YECism. The community appeals to Biblical authority to “prove” its case. But that is no proof whatsoever, and I’d argue that even the Bible doesn’t teach this as a method of proof. Is there biblical thermodynamics, calculus, electromagnetism, classical mechanics, linear algebra, or any major field of research that can be resolved by theology? No.
For example, some YECs will come around and preach that if you don’t believe the Earth is Young, then you’re compromising the word of God. To which I respond, well what does the book of Genesis have to say about what the right form of Maxwell’s Equations should be or how do your resolve the conflict of YEC with the Einstein-Planck equation that is related to the photo electric effect and thus all of Quantum Mechanics. At that point, the preachers have little to say. They’ll then proceed to make disparaging comments about my character.
The major problem of YEC (and there are many) is the problem of distant starlight. Some will invoke temporally and spatially varying speeds of light. Some will argue light was created en-route that gives the appearance of age (GAG!). The problem with varying speeds of light is in order to preserve the energy of the Einstein-Planck equation, one has to then invoke a varying Planck’s constant, which would mean the undoing of Quantum Mechanics. So YECism flies in the face of Maxwell’s Equations (electromagnetism), Relativity (which is related to Maxwell’s Equations), and Quantum Mechanics — no small pillars of real science! Though YECism might stand on its own against evolutionism, it collapses under the weight of modern physics.
But that is not even the end of the story. YECists like Ken Ham routinely demonize other Christians who disagree with him. This is personally distasteful because many in the ID community who have even been expelled and suffered career loss for their criticism of Darwin are also demonized by the likes of Ken Ham. Even supposing YEC is true, this is no way to treat fellow Christian who have shown a lot of courage in speaking their conscience.
Does his organization spend lots of money on real science? Well relative to the millions they spend on amusement parks which they pass off as the “creation museum”, they don’t do much on behalf of answering scientific questions. I’ve mentioned three major problems which are utterly neglected in favor of building amusement parks of no scientific value.
If YECists consider it sinful to believe in an Old Universe, then they’ll have to come to terms with the work of creationists like Maxwell, who ironically has given the best line of reasoning to argue against YECism. Using intimidation, demonization, and appeals to theology will not make much of a persuasive case, even to card carrying creationists like me. In fact, it only reinforces the view they have no facts to stand on, only blind belief.
Sometimes the way YEC “research” is conducted reminds me of the geocentrists that attempted to influence my denomination, the PCA. [incidentally physicist Dave Snoke is an Elder in the PCA, and Dave Heddle is deeply sympathetic to the PCA]. It was disgusting to try to reason with geocentrists. I know many Christian believers, who are in the aerospace industry. That industry wouldn’t achieve its success if it accepted geocentrism. I even met a Christian creationist astronaut who walked on the moon (Charles Duke). This would not be possible if the biblical geocentrists had their way. But some people are so committed to their own theology, they are unwilling to be reasoned with, nor will they seriously engage reasonable objections to their claims. If you want a taste of geocentrism, go here:
Though YECs one the whole aren’t as bad as the geocentrists, there are pockets of them that are as bad, imho. I don’t want these sort of people on my team, and hence I have chosen to affiliate myself with the ID community because of some of the rotten tomatoes in creationism.
So then, in light of these things, why do I accept ID as true and hold out a smidgen of hope that YEC might be true? That obviously will be the subject of future posts at the Skeptical Zone, but all this to say, one can’t accuse me of not recognizing serious difficulties in some of the ideas I’ve promoted and explored. And that is what I would hope the skeptical zone is about.