Several years ago, Tim Gilleand wrote a blog post titled How Can All Those Scientists be Wrong? In his post, Gilleand argued that creationists and scientists both have the same data and that the difference between them is how that information is interpreted. Gilleand wrote:
I believe that the scientific method requires that all evidence must be interpreted before a conclusion is drawn. My issue is not with the evidence itself, it is with the interpretation stage. I believe that scientists interpret the evidence through a worldview filter. Their worldview filter includes their personal beliefs about how the world does or does not operate. For example, if I believe there is no supernatural influence in the world and everything continues on the way and the rate at which it always has, then I am going to interpret something like radiometric decay or geology much differently than someone who believes God has intervened in this world at various points in our early history.
Let’s look at a couple examples…
If God really created Adam on the literal sixth day of creation – how old do you think he might look on day 7? Was he a full grown man? 30… maybe 40? But the truth is he is only one day old. He was created fully mature and able to sustain himself. Now apply that concept to the rest of creation. If God really created the world in six days fully mature and self-sustaining – how might that affect the apparent age of the earth? And how might that affect our research if we left out that concept? Might we come to a much different conclusion? I think so. The point is evidence like radiometric dating the age of the earth doesn’t rule out a special creation because things still might appear older than they truly are and yet that would still be in line Biblicaly (sic).
But isn’t that a deceptive God?? I hear this all the time. No, it’s not. Perhaps God never intended us to study the age of the earth while ignoring his revelation about how He did it! Not God’s deception, human ignorance.
As for geology, we have to look at what might have happened had Noah’s flood actually covered and destroyed the whole world as the Bible seems to imply. Take the layers at the Grand Canyon. Two schools of thought: either a little bit of water (the Colorado River) over a long period of time (millions of years) OR a lot of water (the flood) over a little period of time. The same evidence, different conclusions based on different interpretations that are dependent on our worldview assumptions.
Is the difference between creationists and scientists really a matter of worldview? Is it, as Gilleand says, a matter of how one interprets the world? Creationists would love for this to be true, but doing science requires no particular worldview. Some scientists are devout Christians, yet they come to the same conclusions as their non-Christian colleagues. It is the creationist alone who allows his worldview to radically alter his view of scientific data.
The argument Gilleand is trying to make is that creationists and scientists alike have a starting point from which they begin their investigations While this is, to some degree true, let me demonstrate the difference between the starting points of creationists and scientists. Scientists begin with what we know, the collective body of knowledge we call science. This body of knowledge changes often, as scientists continue to make new discoveries and test currently held scientific ideas. Any student of the modern scientific era knows that science has radically adapted and changed as new information is brought forth. Things that were once considered settled facts are later, thanks to the diligent work of scientists, shown to be wrong. This is why the scientific method is vitally important to our understanding of the universe and the future of all life. It is a self-correcting way of explaining and understanding the world.
Creationists, on the other hand, do not start with the collective body of knowledge we call science. Their starting point begins not with science at all, but with a literalist, Fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible. Gilleand admits this when he says:
As a Christian, I believe God does and has intervened in our world. I also believe the Bible is a historical, reliable account of the creation of the world.
We believe we have additional information in the revealed word of God – therefore we see our starting assumptions as more reliable than fallible human intellect because it comes straight from God who was there, observed it, and doesn’t lie.
For creationists like Gilleand, their interpretation of the world begins not with what they can see and know, but with what unknown authors wrote in an ancient religious text thousands of years ago. Creationists are less than honest when they say that the issue is how the scientific data is interpreted. No matter WHAT science says, creationists will always retreat to faith and their literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Non-creationists know that the universe is billions of years old. How do we know this? Science. While scientists continue to study the universe, creationists have no need to do so. Their minds are made up: God created the universe in six literal twenty-four hours days, 6,024 years ago. None of what science tells us about the universe ultimately matters to the creationist. Why? To put it simply: the BIBLE SAYS.
For these reasons, I have long suggested that it is generally a waste of time to argue matters of science with creationists. The issue is not one of science, but theology. This is why when creationists comment on this blog, I ignore their anti-science rants and instead attack their beliefs about the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Once inerrancy and literalism fall, the argument for creationism is over. This is why, a few years back, when Gilleand stopped by this blog to wage war with the Evangelical preacher-turned-atheist, I challenged his view of the Bible. Gilleand ultimately retreated to the house of faith, safe from the assault of the evil, Christ-denying atheist.
If creationists want their understanding of the world to be accepted as the prevailing scientific view, then they need to start publishing studies in non-Evangelical peer-reviewed scientific journals. Why don’t creationists do this? Surely, if it is self-evident that creationism is true and just a matter of properly interpreting the scientific data, science journals should be filled with studies and papers by creationist scientists. Yet, year after year no studies or papers are forthcoming. The creationist answer for this is that there is a conspiracy by non-creationist scientists to keep creationists from publishing. Their evidence for this? None. If the evidence for creationism is overwhelming, then the science community will grudgingly admit they were wrong and embrace the creationist interpretation of the data. Of course, the creationist, at this point, responds, right, these scientists are unsaved. They don’t believe in the existence of the Christian God, nor do they believe that the Bible is a supernatural, authoritative text. So then, it is clear, the real issue is theology, not science.
Gilleand describes his apologetics ministry this way:
. . . a new apologetics ministry based in Northern Indiana. Our mission stems from the verse found in Colossians 4:6 (NIV) – “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” We have formed this ministry to combat modern secularist tendencies to pull people (often times including Christians) away from the accurate original Biblical message. We will discuss hot topics ranging from creation vs. evolution, homosexuality, abortion, modern politics, the supposed separation of church and state, often-cited inaccuracies in the Scriptures, end times, and much more. We aim to make our posts informative, researched from both sides of the aisle, and considerate of opposing views (grace) but firm in our stance (salt).
You see, even for Gilleand, it is not about the science. It is all about apologetics, the defending of the Fundamentalist Christian view of the world. In Gilleand’s eyes, everything begins and ends with the Christian God and the Protestant Christian Bible. Gilleand’s literalistic interpretation of the Bible becomes a box in which everything must fit. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box.) While Gilleand has convinced himself that he has “researched from both sides of the aisle” and considered “opposing views,” his “firm stance” never changes. This is Fundamentalism at its finest: No matter what, I believe. While Gilleand thinks of himself as being open-minded, the fact is he is only willing to consider data that neatly fits within his box. Any data outside of this box is rejected, labeled as being contrary to the Christian God and the Bible.
There is no hope of reaching people who think like this. Try as you might to reach them, their minds are walled off from anything that contradicts or challenges their worldview. For them, the lines are clearly drawn, and no amount of argument will change their minds. Until Fundamentalists are willing to venture past the lines they have drawn, there is no possible way for someone like me to move them away from their ill-informed, ignorant view of the world.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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