Ask Tom: Why Is Young Earth Creationism Pseudoscientific?

During a discussion on creationism I was asked the question, “Why is young earth creationism pseudoscientific in your view?” 

Allow me to explain.

Have you ever seen this photo? Here is a great example of what speech says and what it means. The meaning of the sign is that the parking space is reserved for vehicles that use electric or hybrid engines instead of gas fueled vehicles. However, the driver of the truck took the spot because the color of his truck was green. He was probably having a good laugh about it, but it helps to illustrate a point. Does the usage of the word “Yom” in Genesis 1 refer to a 24-hour day, or does it mean something else? What was the intention of the writer? This is one of the central battles between young earth and old earth creationists.

Now, this is a religious argument between believers of differing persuasion. But what about the science? What are the hypotheses of young earth creationism from a scientific perspective? Not a biblical perspective, but a scientific perspective. There seem to be none. Consider these four truths:

1.) All attempts at creating a scientific hypothesis for young earth creationism have failed to produce anything convincing or lasting for study in the scientific community.

2.) No attempted hypothesis of young earth creationism has resulted in prediction of natural phenomenon that have been found to shore up a young earth hypothesis.

3.) Every scientific evidence offered for young earth hypotheses have fallen as a result of ongoing research into material origins.

4.) There are no lasting scientific hypotheses for young earth creationism, only anecdotal evidences.

In all four instances you will note that I have criticized the lack of a “scientific hypothesis” for young earth creationism. What is a scientific hypothesis? Here’s a simple definition from Wikipedia: “A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it.“ Furthermore, a scientific hypotheses also helps to predict patterns and behavior of the phenomenon that helps demonstrate the hypotheses may be correct. Note this more detailed explanation:

“A scientific hypothesis is a model of some kind which will describe/explain how something in the universe works. It will be able to predict phenomena which can then be checked. The hypothesis guides the scientist in selecting what to observe. The goal of the hypothesis and the research is to expand knowledge.

“If this process is going to work and develop real new knowledge, the hypothesis needs to meet a set of criteria called Criteria of Adequacy. They are 

  • Testability
  • Fruitfulness
  • Scope
  • Simplicity
  • Conservatism

Testability: This simply means that there must be SOME means of testing the hypothesis. The test must have the possibility of refuting the hypothesis, that is, showing that is wrong. This is basic for science. A hypothesis that cannot be rigorously tested is not scientific.

Fruitfulness: A good hypothesis will turn out to explain MORE things than it originally set out to explain. A hypothesis that makes unexpected and new predictions that turn out to be accurate is fruitful.

Scope: The hypothesis should add to existing theory, or at least extend or improve it. A larger scope of a hypothesis means that it predicts more diverse phenomena than other hypotheses.

Simplicity: In modern terms we would call this KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Simplicity means having no more assumptions, factors or explanations than are needed. This is the principle of Occam’s Razor; the “razor” is used to cut away unneeded parts. A hypothesis with the fewest assumptions or factors has the fewest ways to be wrong. Occam’s Razor is not perfect; it is a heuristic, not a theoretically derived law. It is possible that a simple hypothesis is not adequate for the task.

Conservatism: This means that the hypothesis must fit into established knowledge. If a hypothesis would violate some well-established rule, it is not likely to be correct. Maybe not impossible (all science is tentative), but not likely. It will take a LOT of evidence to get anywhere. Consider that Alfred Wegener, at a meeting in 1912, startled the scientific world with his hypothesis that the Earth’s continents were not fixed in place, but rather moved slowly about on the planet’s surface. The idea was considered to be wacky. It took 50 years for enough evidence to accumulate and show that Wegener was right. Now we understand not only that the continents move, but also how fast, which direction, and how it works. That’s science – ideas can change” (http://www.physics.smu.edu/pseudo/Creation/).

By these definitions, young earth creationism cannot be defined as a scientific hypothesis. Why?

Young earth creationism is first an interpretation of biblical text, not a conclusion of scientific study. Thus, while some young earth advocates may offer interpretive support from scripture, there have been no discoveries to date that offer conclusive support to a young earth view that is scientific. Thus, as a scientific hypothesis, young earth creationism appears to be bankrupt. 

According to one former young earth creationist, “Young-earth creationism has simply failed every empirical test that mainstream science demands. This is why there are no serious peer-reviewed creationist papers, and no scientists studying young-earth creationism in any secular research centre in the world.” – Daniel Stork Banks, Confessions Of A Failed Young-Earth Creationist.

Now, to go back to the beginning of this article, there may be biblical hypotheses regarding young earth creationism that can be debated. In fact, there are. But there is also biblical data for hypotheses for old earth creationism, historical creationism, a poetic interpretation, functional ontology, theistic evolution, and so on. These are also interpretive, like that sign for a green vehicle. To help us make sense of these viewpoints it is sometimes necessary to look outside our discipline into another discipline to help give us insight. We do this all the time with historical writings and archaeological discoveries that aid our examination of the biblical text. And this is why many Christians look to scientific discoveries to shore up their argument for their view of creation. The problem, as I’ve noted, is that as a scientific theory, young earth creationism appears to be bankrupt. And this is why young earth creationism can only be classified as pseudoscientific.

2 thoughts on “Ask Tom: Why Is Young Earth Creationism Pseudoscientific?

  1. I am going to respectfully disagree with your conclusion. If we use the same criteria for the theory of evolution it also fails.
    Testability: The theory of evolution that is that we evolved form nothing to something is untestable. We cannot rigorously test evolution; it is an unrepeatable process. How to we test Dinosaurs become birds or mammals? How to we test fish become air breathing animals? We cannot. What we see today that is often referred to as evolution is merely adaptation to an environment. We have never seen one species turning in to a completely new species.
    Fruitfulness: When we think of the theory of evolution, we ended asking more questions than answering them. There have been to major break throughs other than find more fossil with no explanation as to how they came to be. There have been no substantiated transitional fossils found.
    Scope: Nothing has been added to the theory of evolution it is the same basic theory proposed by Darwin over a hundred years ago. Rather than improvement we find more questions than ever.
    Simplicity: There is nothing more complicated than thinking nothing become something. I think of the eye the complex nature of the eye is so vast that for it to have evolved is mathematically impossible.
    Conservatism: If we stuck to the idea that hypothesis must fit into established knowledge and to violate such knowledge means it is likely not to be correct we would still be living I grass huts and not typing thoughts on a computer and relying to things over the internet.
    There are peer-reviewed papers, the problem arises that the established scientific community refuses to take them seriously because they refuse to change. The scientific community has become so entrenched in their beliefs that to think otherwise would be considered sacrilegious. There are many serious scientists that have been ostracized and made outcast because they buck the system.
    In a previous blog you wrote you used the argument that Creationist use the excuse God could do that if he wanted to. If we are to be truthful those that believe in progressive, or theological evolution use the same argument. Theologically the idea that we evolved has many implications to our salvation, it means we have to ignore the fact that Adam and Eve were perfect, and all sin is a result of their fall. We have to ignore the fact that God has had a plan of salvation form the beginning of time. We have to ignore the flood and genealogy found throughout the book of Genesis. There is no logical explanation as to why and when sin entered into the world if we ignore Genesis as written. I am a simple man; I really like to keep it simple so should we when reading God’s word. He gave us our history; he wrote it down just as he wanted us to read it. I think we spend too much time reading between the lines, inserting man’s ideas and thoughts into what God has plainly give us. The Bible is not a science book it is a history book, a book that shows where we came from, where we are and where we are going. When we begin to question the history, God has given us we open the door to untruth. That is evident through out the church today.
    Respectfully
    Hiram Withers.

    1. Hi Hiram, thanks for posting. Thanks for your thoughts on this. However, I want to point out one thing. I am not making an argument for evolution. If you’ll read carefully, you’ll see that I do not argue for evolution at all. That is because I do not believe in evolution. Never have. I’m simply arguing for an Old Earth view. One can be Old Earth without being an evolutionist.

      Blessings to your and your family.

      Tom

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