Young Earth Creationism and the Failure of the “Framework” Defense

Uncommon Descent and Young Earth Creationism

Intelligent design creationists often declare that they are not creationists, but merely interested in “promoting academic freedom” or “teaching the full range of scientific views”. Scientific skeptics and defenders of mainstream science are quick to point out that academic freedom does not mean that teachers are allowed to teach whatever they wish and there is no credible scientific alternative to evolution. Even their own words often betray them. In the infamous Wedge Document, the intelligent design creationists state that they aim to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies” as well as “reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic conviction”. A similar message can be found on the the intelligent design creationist blog Uncommon Descent. Their about page declares that “materialistic ideology has subverted the study of biological and cosmological origins so that the actual content of these sciences has become corrupted”, which is a clear rejection of many areas of modern science.

Uncommon Descent recently published a blog post by David Anderson defending Young Earth Creationism. It is a weird chimera of a contradictory appeal to interpretational frameworks, name-calling as well as the misunderstanding of both logic and Big Bang cosmology. He claims that the correct usage of logic is to “honor” a deity and that the use of evidence and logic to expose ideological belief systems is akin to “positivism” and “scientism”. Anderson then goes on to claim that there is no unbiased way to interpret evidence, that Big Bang cosmology is “disputed” and that young earth creationism is on par with the evidence-based conclusions of modern cosmology. He does this without presenting a single shred of evidence against Big Bang cosmology or in favor of young earth creationism.

Interpretative framework does not equal anti-science ideology

In a convoluted attempt containing equal parts presuppositionalism and postmodern epistemic relativism, Anderson deploys the following argument:

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. […] 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.

Sure, everyone has some kind of interpretative framework, but not all such interpretative frameworks are equally evidence-based. Scientists and scientific skeptics are aware that single individuals can be biased by their own personal beliefs. That is precisely the reason for why science uses peer-review, replication and critical discussions at conferences. While individuals may not reach the summit of objectivity, but mainstream scientific consensus positions on the broad issues come pretty close. For instance, it is extremely unlikely that the scientific consensus that nuclear fusion occurs in the sun will ever change.

The differences between interpretative frameworks is not reducible to awareness and consistency. The third difference is the degree to which they are evidence-based. It is here that the young earth creationist beliefs promoted by Anderson completely breaks down. It is a contradiction to argue from presuppositionalism and then state that some interpretative frameworks can be “fundamentally false”.

Finally, Anderson commits a fallacy of equivocation: an interpretative framework in the sense of an underlying structure consisting of basic assumptions about the world is not the same as an interpretative framework in the sense of a dogmatic and anti-scientific ideology (young earth creationism).

How young earth creationism butchers logic

Anderson ventures on to discuss the nature and justification of logic.

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.

Anderson might believe that the “correct use of logic” is to honor Jahve, but how does he know? He provides no evidence for this, so there is no reason to accept this claim. In reality, logic is a method for valid reasoning and can be used to find what follows from what, but also what conclusions do not follow from stated premises. No part of modern logic includes appeals to a supernatural creator. It is also strange that Anderson thinks he knows the wishes of a postulated supernatural entity. Finally, supernatural entities cannot justify non-subjective logic. If logic has its origin in an individual (a subject), then logic would by definition be subjective. Objective logic is only possible if it does not depend on the commands, beliefs or nature of a personal entity.

Uninterpreted evidence? More like strongly evidence- based conclusion

Someone may believe that the YEC paradigm […] 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!

This is the classic “we just have different interpretations of the evidence!” gambit that is frequently used by young earth creationists. The problem, of course, is that interpretations of evidence can be tested and researchers can look for a convergence of evidence towards the same general conclusion. It is also worth pointing out that there is a difference between rationalizing evidence with ad hoc hypotheses and having genuine predictive power. A real scientific model makes dangerous assumptions that risks falsifying it. Pseudoscience does not, or at least it does not care about the outcome.

Distance is not the same as age

Anderson, in a stunning display of creationist ignorance about science, confuses distance with age:

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.

The distance to the edge of the observable universe is indeed around 45 billion light years. However, the age of the universe is around 14 billion years. Years, not light years. The calculation carried out by Anderson assumes that you can subtract age away from distance and get a meaningful result. This betrays a fundamental ignorance about cosmology. Light year is not a way to measure age, but a measure of distance (i.e the distance light travels per year).

Big Bang cosmology is mainstream science, not disputed or circular

Anderson continues:

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

Big Bang cosmology is not in dispute among scientists. This is because it is supported by a massive amount of evidence and has made very dangerous predictions that would have refuted it had they not been confirmed. A key example of this includes fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation. There is nothing circular about interpreting data within the framework of a strongly evidence-based model. Consider the tides: if the moon has a big influence of the tides, how do you explain the fact that tides come in twice a day? There is nothing circular about pointing out that the moon also has an effect on the earth itself, which is less than the water on the other side of the earth, thereby creating two tides per day.

Big Bang cosmology is not assumed to be strongly evidence-based, it has been demonstrated.

Young earth creationism is not on conceptual par with Big Bang Cosmology

Anderson finishes his blog post off by the following stunning admission:

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 difference, of course, is that we can make precise predictions from Big Bang cosmology that can and have been confirmed by observational evidence. No such confirmation occurs for young earth creationism. More about the evidence for the Big Bang can be found here.

Conclusion

The intelligent design creationist blog Uncommon Descent claims that they do not promote creationism, yet they publish wildly erroneous posts on mainstream science such as this defense of young earth creationism written by David Anderson. He deploys the presuppositional argument that everyone has interpretative frameworks (and that therefore, appeals to evidence is not valid), while that the same time contradicting himself by stating that all interpretative frameworks are not equal and some can even be fundamentally wrong. Anderson equivocates an underlying system of assumptions with anti-scientific ideology. He even tries to ground logic in a supernatural deity, yet fails to understand that since this deity is an individual (a subject), any such logic is going to be subjective. Moreover, in his attempt to make Big Bang cosmology and young earth creationism “conceptually equivalent”, Anderson confuses distance with age. In the end, Anderson fails to understand the power of evidence to differentiate between different models and interpretative frameworks.

Emil Karlsson

Debunker of pseudoscience.

One thought on “Young Earth Creationism and the Failure of the “Framework” Defense

  • October 26, 2013 at 13:47
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    The pre meditated mangling of science needs to exposed in this manner in as many places as possible. This entirely bogus model of ID or the often heard “lets teach both sides” crap should be struck with a hammer on an anvil repeatedly until these incompetent, malicious, word playing, reality denying, head desk inducing morons are thoughly exposed as the charlatans they undoubtedly are. It is no longer a question of if they are lying. It is just a matter of to what degree, and that degree is astronomical.

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