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Nicene Nerd

The Epistemological Problem with Young Earth Creationism

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The many observational problems with young earth creationism (i.e. how all the evidence in the universe points away from a young earth) seem to be conveniently pushed aside for many YEC apologists with the "appearance of age" (from now on "AA") theory. This basic idea, for anyone unfamiliar, is that God created the universe in six days in a such a way that it had absolutely every appearance of an older history, but simply lacked a real older history. In this view, roughly 6 to 10 thousand years ago God created a universe which in every last detail was identical to a 12 to 14 billion year old one. Thus, harmonization.

 

While of course numerous objections could be made against this argument, I want to zoom in on the inherent epistemological (definition: relating to the theory of knowledge, especially how or what we really know) problem. The AA theory specifies that the true nature of the universe as young is altogether unrelated, and in fact contradictory, to all its accessible appearances. In other words, our perception of the age of the universe has nothing to do with the way the age of the universe really is. The appearance of the world to the human race is fundamentally divided from the way the world is in itself.

 

When put this way, the problem is hopefully to be clear. If it is indeed possible, and not only possible but actually true, that the accessible appearances of things are not related at all to the true nature of things, then all knowing is called into question. If we accept the AA theory, then we can throw absolutely any knowledge of the world around us out the window, because it is completely possible that what we perceive of the world has nothing to do with reality. As one possible example, I should not assume that there really is a computer screen before my eyes; it may well be that the appearance of the screen is misleading me from the reality that there is a crocodile about to eat me. 

 

This becomes particularly acute for AA theory when Scripture comes into play. If AA theory's necessary assumption—that there need not be any relationship between appearances and reality even on large and significant scales—then interpreting the Bible, including Genesis 1, must be impossible. If the appearance of the universe to us can be completely and totally opposite to its reality, then must we not also hold open the possibility that Scripture is the same? It may appear to humans like it teaches a young earth, but in reality it might teach that we live in a matrix world controlled by gnomes. Of course, if this is a legitimate possibility, then the whole point of AA theory would be questionable as well, since it relies on an apparent reading of the Bible which may or may not have anything to do with the Bible's reality.

 

The only possible way out which comes to mind is if we take it that Scripture is special in that it is filled with "behind-the-scenes" information, that is, truth direct from the omniscient mind of God, and thus bypasses the barrier of appearances to tell us the truth about the world around us. Yet if we take this route, we are still stuck at the appearance of the text itself to us. How can we know the appearance of Scripture visible to us corresponds to its true nature?

 

My only hypothetical answer to this problem might be that the Holy Spirit gives us direct access to the truth of Scripture by connecting us to the omniscient God Himself. So by the Spirit we read Scripture as it is in itself, and by Scripture we come to see the world as it is in itself. In purely theoretical terms, this might be a consistent approach, though I'm skeptical and hope someone (perhaps Chris?) will help me find its weakness. But in empirical terms, it becomes a contradictory mess, because it would require based on the weird mixture of science accepted and rejected with the YEC system that the relationship between the appearance of the world and its true nature does match up frequently, especially on mundane matters, but that these connections become convoluted and random once we delve deeper into the world of science and cosmology in particular. At this point the scientific perceptions of the universe would be like a big ball of tangled spaghetti, with some good noodles, some bad noodles, and possibly some mixed noodles that all look equally fine.

 

Chad, this is mostly for you. But anyone else who wishes to respond is welcome. Including Kant.

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My only hypothetical answer to this problem might be that the Holy Spirit gives us direct access to the truth of Scripture by connecting us to the omniscient God Himself. So by the Spirit we read Scripture as it is in itself, and by Scripture we come to see the world as it is in itself. In purely theoretical terms, this might be a consistent approach, though I'm skeptical and hope someone (perhaps Chris?) will help me find its weakness.

 

 

I would question the faculty by which the Spirit imparts knowledge. Does He make ideas pop into your head? Does He lead you by feelings? How are those differentiable from ideas and feelings arising from my subconscious, Satan, hallucinogens, or indigestion?  Obviously something confounds our ability to get Scripture's truth. I imagine everyone in this discussion has changed their mind about what Scripture means about something at some point.

 

If the Holy Spirit's mode of communication has the same appearance as something that is not the Holy Spirit communicating, then we have not solved the problem. The question is not could God reveal truth. Obviously He could--He could do it through science if he wanted. The question is how do we know that a given sensation, experience, or other appearance is God's truth? 

Edited by Chris-M

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I'm very sorry, to disagree with you (again) 

But I like to believe, that when the Bible gives a history of the world, it is all true.  Not just the parts we like to think are true.

And, if you can say that one book of the Bible is totally myth or, just a nice story, what does that say about the credibility of the Bible?  Couldn't Jesus himself be just as easily a myth, or a nice story.

 

I feel sad for all the people who legitimately believe the lie that the Bible is a book that can be taken to be just a nice story.

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I'm very sorry, to disagree with you (again)

But I like to believe, that when the Bible gives a history of the world, it is all true. Not just the parts we like to think are true.

And, if you can say that one book of the Bible is totally myth or, just a nice story, what does that say about the credibility of the Bible? Couldn't Jesus himself be just as easily a myth, or a nice story.

I feel sad for all the people who legitimately believe the lie that the Bible is a book that can be taken to be just a nice story.

I believe that Genesis 1 is totally true. That doesn't mean the earth is young. Besides, what does your response have to do with the argument I brought up?

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