Tag Archives: Young-Earth Creationism

Is the Big Bang cosmology a theistic or atheistic theory of cosmic origins?

Christianity and the progress of science
Christianity and the progress of science

Dr. Michael Strauss is a practicing particle physics employed as a professor at University of Oklahoma. He does research in particle physics at CERN, a large hadron collider. It’s safe to assume that he knows something about experimental physics.

Here’s what he writes about Christians and the Big Bang at his new blog:

When my children were young, I would often drive to the home of the person babysitting my kids, usually a young teenage girl, pick her up, then drive her back to my house.  In the car I would ask questions about her interests or her school.  In addition, I would sometimes ask a question that intrigued me since I am a scientist and a Christian, “Do you think the Big Bang is a theistic theory or an atheistic theory?”  Now that question is not on most people’s list of babysitter interview questions, but I was interested to know their answer even though it would not affect their monetary tip. Every time I asked this question I always got the same answer, that the Big Bang is an atheistic theory.  This is just one example of the fact that many kids growing up in an evangelical church environment have the perception that the Big Bang is an idea which removes God as the creator.  It seems that many Christians may disdain the Big Bang.

Subsequent conversations with people of all ages have shown me that many individuals (1) don’t really understand what the Big Bang is, (2) don’t know the scientific evidence for the Big Bang, and (3) don’t comprehend the theistic significance of the Big Bang.   So let’s explore these ideas a little bit.

Here is his overview of the scientific evidence for the Big Bang:

There are three primary observations that are best explained by the Big Bang.  First, the universe is expanding so that it must have had a beginning of expansion in the past.  Second, because the universe was once very hot, we can still see the remnants of that heat in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation.  The latest measurements of the CMB spectrum made by the Planck satellite (shown above) agrees almost perfectly with theoretical calculations using the standard Big Bang cosmological model (see the plot at the end of this post).  Third, the theory predicts the amount of primordial light elements that should have been created in the first few minutes of the Big Bang, like hydrogen and helium.  Again the observations and the theoretical calculations align almost exactly.   A few other observations are supported by Big Bang predictions, like the distribution of galaxies and primordial gas.  The agreement between what we measure and what is expected from a Big Bang is so remarkable that just about all scientists accept the Big Bang as the origin of our universe, despite its implication that the universe had a beginning.

Does this scientific evidence support theism, or atheism?

Because we don’t have any observations that tell us exactly what happened “in the beginning” of our universe, we can only speculate.  But let me point out the obvious.  All of the observations we do have, and all the theoretical calculations, and even some projective calculations like the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem… give credence to the conclusion that all of the space, time, matter, and energy of this universe had a beginning.  The Big Bang is a misnomer for it is not some kind of explosion since there was nothing that existed to explode.  It is the origin of the universe.  So if this universe had a beginning, then the cause of the universe can not be a part of the universe.  The cause must be transcendent, like the Christian idea of God.  Is the fact that all the evidence points to our universe having a transcendent cause proof for God?  No, but it is extremely powerful evidence.  If one hundred years ago you had predicted that scientists would obtain unambiguous evidence about the history of the universe for 13.8 billion years, all of its lifetime except the first fraction of a second, and that all of the evidence would point to an actual beginning consistent with a transcendent cause, I don’t think anyone would have taken you seriously.  But that is exactly what has happened.  Theists could not have outlined a better scenario to support theism.  The scientific facts are completely consistent with the statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

I know how I account for this scientific discovery in my worldview: a non-physical mind that existed eternally created the physical universe at time t=0. But how do atheists, who can only explain the world by appealing to matter, explain the origin of matter itself?

Here’s Oxford University professor of physical chemistry (and atheist) Peter Atkins explaining how he grounds the Big Bang cosmology:

Easy! Nothing actually exists, according to Peter Atkins.

What about a theoretical physicist, like Lawrence Krauss? Well, he just redefines the nothing that causally preceded the origin of the universe so that it is actually something. Pure speculation, and it goes against the experimental scientific evidence we have. Exactly what you’d expect from a man who wrote a book about “the physics of Star Trek”.

Each of us has to come to terms with this scientific evidence. What could have caused the beginning of the universe? It can’t be matter, because this was the beginning of all the matter in the universe. It has to be a mind.

Although most theists have no problem with this scientific evidence, atheists really hate it. When I tell them about this evidence, they tell me that in a few years or decades, all the evidence for a beginning we have now will have gone away. “How do you know that?” I ask. We have faith” they reply. I don’t think anyone should deny the objective reality we all share just because it’s what they want to believe.

Is the Big Bang cosmology a theistic or atheistic theory of cosmic origins?

Christianity and the progress of science
Christianity and the progress of science

Dr. Michael Strauss is a practicing particle physics employed as a professor at University of Oklahoma. He does research in particle physics at CERN, a large hadron collider. It’s safe to assume that he knows something about experimental physics.

Here’s what he writes about Christians and the Big Bang at his new blog:

When my children were young, I would often drive to the home of the person babysitting my kids, usually a young teenage girl, pick her up, then drive her back to my house.  In the car I would ask questions about her interests or her school.  In addition, I would sometimes ask a question that intrigued me since I am a scientist and a Christian, “Do you think the Big Bang is a theistic theory or an atheistic theory?”  Now that question is not on most people’s list of babysitter interview questions, but I was interested to know their answer even though it would not affect their monetary tip. Every time I asked this question I always got the same answer, that the Big Bang is an atheistic theory.  This is just one example of the fact that many kids growing up in an evangelical church environment have the perception that the Big Bang is an idea which removes God as the creator.  It seems that many Christians may disdain the Big Bang.

Subsequent conversations with people of all ages have shown me that many individuals (1) don’t really understand what the Big Bang is, (2) don’t know the scientific evidence for the Big Bang, and (3) don’t comprehend the theistic significance of the Big Bang.   So let’s explore these ideas a little bit.

Here is his overview of the scientific evidence for the Big Bang:

There are three primary observations that are best explained by the Big Bang.  First, the universe is expanding so that it must have had a beginning of expansion in the past.  Second, because the universe was once very hot, we can still see the remnants of that heat in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation.  The latest measurements of the CMB spectrum made by the Planck satellite (shown above) agrees almost perfectly with theoretical calculations using the standard Big Bang cosmological model (see the plot at the end of this post).  Third, the theory predicts the amount of primordial light elements that should have been created in the first few minutes of the Big Bang, like hydrogen and helium.  Again the observations and the theoretical calculations align almost exactly.   A few other observations are supported by Big Bang predictions, like the distribution of galaxies and primordial gas.  The agreement between what we measure and what is expected from a Big Bang is so remarkable that just about all scientists accept the Big Bang as the origin of our universe, despite its implication that the universe had a beginning.

Does this scientific evidence support theism, or atheism?

Because we don’t have any observations that tell us exactly what happened “in the beginning” of our universe, we can only speculate.  But let me point out the obvious.  All of the observations we do have, and all the theoretical calculations, and even some projective calculations like the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem (which I should probably blog about at some time) give credence to the conclusion that all of the space, time, matter, and energy of this universe had a beginning.  The Big Bang is a misnomer for it is not some kind of explosion since there was nothing that existed to explode.  It is the origin of the universe.  So if this universe had a beginning, then the cause of the universe can not be a part of the universe.  The cause must be transcendent, like the Christian idea of God.  Is the fact that all the evidence points to our universe having a transcendent cause proof for God?  No, but it is extremely powerful evidence.  If one hundred years ago you had predicted that scientists would obtain unambiguous evidence about the history of the universe for 13.8 billion years, all of its lifetime except the first fraction of a second, and that all of the evidence would point to an actual beginning consistent with a transcendent cause, I don’t think anyone would have taken you seriously.  But that is exactly what has happened.  Theists could not have outlined a better scenario to support theism.  The scientific facts are completely consistent with the statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Now I’ve had conversations with atheists about this scientific evidence during my lifetime. And the conversations always go like this: I lay out the experimental evidence and theoretical evidence for a cosmic beginning, and they start to talk about science fiction: Star Wars and Star Trek. But there are also famous atheists who have tried to account for the Big Bang cosmology in their atheistic worldview.

Here’s Oxford University professor of physical chemistry (and atheist) Peter Atkins explaining how he grounds the Big Bang cosmology:

Easy! Nothing actually exists, according to Peter Atkins.

What about a theoretical physicist, like Lawrence Krauss? Well, he just redefines the nothing that causally preceded the origin of the universe so that it is actually something. Pure speculation, and it goes against the experimental scientific evidence we have. Exactly what you’d expect from a man who wrote a book about the physics of “Star Trek”.

You don’t get to start with the laws of physics in the Big Bang cosmology. You don’t get to start with an electron. You don’t get to start with a quantum vacuum, nor even quantum foam. You start with nothing: no matter, no energy, no space, and no time. From that state, the universe begins to exist. Atheists hate the Big Bang cosmology. And they also hate the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the Big Bang that allows the universe to support complex, embodied intelligent life. (Another miraculous evidence for God that is opposed by the anti-science fundamentalists).

I see resistance against the use of scientific evidence to support the existence of God from many pious pastors like Al Mohler, Russell Moore, etc. Some pastors think that you can just read the Bible out loud to someone and it will convert them to Christianity, as if the words of the Bible, in and of themselves, were some sort of incantation. It’s sort of like the “burning of the bosom” that Mormons are supposed to have when reading the Mormon Bible, which Mormons use in place of evidence, since they don’t have any. Many fideist pastors adopt this Mormon approach to trusting in God. Never mind that Jesus offered his resurrection as evidence of his claims to divinity to skeptics. Apparently, These pious pastors know better than Jesus how to evangelize non-Christians, and they’ve decided that the magic words fideist approach is better than use of scientific and historical evidence. It’s really annoying that the pious pastors have so much more influence in churches than the witness of experimental science, which is just God speaking to us through nature. I’d trust scientific evidence over an uneducated fundamentalist pastor any day of the week.

Are any scientists persuaded by science alone to accept a young Earth?

John Ankerberg explains what happened when he asked the two leading proponents of young Earth creationism, John Morris and Duane Gish, whether any prominent scientists had ever been convinced by science alone to accept a young Earth. (H/T TQA)

Excerpt:

John Morris says no:

When I was arguing for the young earth view in the early years of our television ministry, I remember when my friend Dr. John Morris, the President of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and one of the world’s largest young earth organizations, was being interviewed on KKLA radio in Los Angeles. He was asked, “Had he or any of his associates ever met or heard of a scientist who became persuaded that the universe or earth is only thousands of years old, based on scientific evidence without a reference to a particular interpretation of the Bible?” Morris’ answer was no, he had not.

Duane Gish says no:

Later, Duane Gish, also of ICR, was asked the same question. I was interested in his answer as I had invited Dr. Gish to be my guest in the very first debate I held on science and the Bible. I had arranged for him to debate Dr. Vincent Sarich, who was the Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Berkeley and an evolutionist. When Dr. Gish was asked if he knew of any scientist who had ever been persuaded by the scientific evidence that the universe or the earth was 6,000 years old, he also said no.

I think that this is telling. Young Earth creationism is very much an inward-focused activity.

Take a look at the locations for upcoming events for Answers in Genesis:

  • First Baptist Church Kimberling City
  • Macedonia Baptist Church
  • Cornerstone Church
  • Antioch 1611 Baptist Church
  • First Baptist Church
  • Grace Community Church
  • Colonial Baptist Church
  • Evangelical Free Church of Bay City

And the Institute for Creation Research:

  • Glenview Baptist Church
  • Lakeside Baptist Church
  • First Baptist Church
  • Ridgeview Church

Contrast that with the recent Reasonable Faith UK tour, which features public debates and lectures at the top universities in the UK, against the top scientists and philosophers in the UK.

Here are some of those events:

Monday 17th October 2011
7.30pm “Does God Exist?
Public Debate with Stephen Law, lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, London and Editor of the magazine of the Royal Institute of Philosophy THINK. Arranged by Premier Radio.
Westminster Central Hall, Storeys Gate, London, SW1H 9NH

Tuesday 18th October 2011
12.45pm Student Lecture “The Evidence for God” 
Pippard Lecture Theatre (Sherfield Building), Imperial College London (South Kensington Campus), Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AZ

Wednesday 19th October 2011
7.30pm Public lecture “The Origins of the Universe – has Hawking eliminated God?” on Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design followed by a panel response
William Lane Craig will discuss the issues arising from his presentation with Revd Dr Rodney Holder, physicist with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge.
St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge

Thursday 20th October 2011
7.30pm Debate at the Cambridge Union: “This House Believes that God is not a Delusion”
Proposing the motion: William Lane Craig and Peter S. Williams
Opposing the motion: Arif Ahmed and Andrew Copson
The Cambridge Union, Cambridge

Friday 21st October 2011
7.30pm “Does God Exist?
Debate with Professor Peter Millican, Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford University
The Great Hall, Birmingham University, Edgbaston, B15 2TT

Tuesday 25th October 2011
7.30pm Lecture “Is God a Delusion?” A Critique of Dawkins’ The God Delusion
[or a debate with Richard Dawkins if he should accept the invitation]
Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ

Wednesday 26th October 2011
7.30pm “Does God Exist?
Debate with Dr Peter Atkins, former Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University
University Place Lecture Theatre, Manchester University, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL

I think that Christians need to reflect on what arguments can actually be sustained in public with good science at the highest levels, and which arguments are not sustainable in public. I don’t mind if someone is a young Earth person, but they should have a realistic view of how defensible that position is scientifically.

UPDATE: J.W. Wartick evaluates common arguments for young Earth creationism here.

UPDATE: An excellent debate, with summary, on the age of the Earth, featuring Jason Lisle and Hugh Ross.

Can you use the Bible to prove that the Bible is true?

From Melissa’s blog Hard-Core Christianity.

Excerpt:

What bothers me about young-earth organizations (more so than their accusations of compromise aimed at old-earth creationists) is that they shoot themselves in the feet when it comes to offering a viable apologetic to non-believers.  You often hear them make statements like, “We should start with the Bible, view everything in the world through the lens of Scripture, and adjust our beliefs about the natural world accordingly.” Of course the Bible should be our ultimate authority on everything; if we hold Scripture to be the inspired word of God, and we understand its factual reliability based on centuries of rigorous historical and textual research, we should trust it to be completely and utterly true (while accepting that there is some latitude in how some passages can be interpreted).

However, when it comes to defending the faith and keeping our hearts united with our God-given intellect, we need to examine this approach more closely. When someone asks you why you believe the biblical claim that “God created the heavens and the earth,” how far do you think you’re going to get with them by answering, “For the Bible tells me so”?  This is a fallacy known as circular reasoning, and it is fatal to our apologetic and to having a reasonable faith ourselves!

What we need instead is extra-biblical evidence that supports the truth of the Bible. (Notice that I did not use the word “prove.”) Philosophers use the fancy phrase “epistemic grounding.” We need to meet the non-believer where they are–observable nature–and carry them towards the truth of Christianity. As believers, we benefit from having both intellectual AND spiritual reasons for our beliefs, and we escape the trap of having a privatized theology where our confidence in the Bible is based exclusively on internal feelings.

Find more good posts on Melissa’s blog.

What caused Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown to abandon his Christian faith?

Here is an interview with Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code”, and other anti-Christian books.

Excerpt:

Interviewer:
Are you religious?

Dan Brown:
I was raised Episcopalian, and I was very religious as a kid. Then, in eighth or ninth grade, I studied astronomy, cosmology, and the origins of the universe. I remember saying to a minister, “I don’t get it. I read a book that said there was an explosion known as the Big Bang, but here it says God created heaven and Earth and the animals in seven days. Which is right?” Unfortunately, the response I got was, “Nice boys don’t ask that question.” A light went off, and I said, “The Bible doesn’t make sense. Science makes much more sense to me.” And I just gravitated away from religion.

This experience is common in the workplace and in the university.

Cold case homicide detective Jim Wallace writes:

It’s both sad and frustrating that the minister in Dan Brown’s story was unable to provide a defense for the Christian view of origins. Good, critical questions should be seen as an important part of the Christian faith, but too many of us fail to see our faith as evidential. It’s so important for us to be prepared with a response for questions like those asked by Brown as a child. The Christian worldview offers insightful and power answers to questions related to cosmology, teleology and the Big Bang. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened with Brown had the minister simply been prepared.

My personal view is that even those who believe strongly in young earth creationism should be diligent to also teach their children the arguments for a Creator and Designer from mainstream, old-earth science. Mainstream science points strongly to a Creator and Designer of the universe and is compatible with a respectful interpretation of Genesis.

Here are 6 arguments that every young earth creationist should be able to defend.

  1. The Big Bang
  2. The fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the Big Bang
  3. The fine-tuning needed to provide a habitable galaxy, solar system and planet
  4. The origin of biological information in the simplest living cell
  5. The sudden origin of the major body plans (phyla) in the Cambrian Explosion
  6. The limits of mutation and selection to build up specified complexity

You can read more about these mainstream scientific arguments here. If all your experience learning science apologetics comes from young earth teachers, then you probably will get a huge boost in your effectiveness in the public square by learning these arguments from mainstream science.

I am sympathetic with responsible, well-educated young earth scholars like Dr. Marcus Ross and Dr. Paul Nelson. These scholars acknowledge the real state of the evidence, but are holding out for emerging research that may vindicate their YEC views. They are good scholars, with real degrees, and they are prominent members of the intelligent design movement, which welcomes responsible young earth scholars.

On the other hand, I do not recommend the young earth popularizers like Kent Hovind and Ken Ham. Their material is not good preparation for outward-focused engagement about scientific issues. Christian apologetics today is saturated with old-earth arguments, yet virtually no Christian apologist believes in macro-evolution. Old-earth Christians debate against evolution in public all the time. In fact, they lead the fight against evolution.

Young-earth creationism is strictly targeted to Christians

I just glanced at the ICR web site and ALL THREE of their upcoming conferences are being held in CHURCHES. The Answers in Genesis Conference is being held in a church. Ken Ham’s speaking engagements are all in churches. There are no debates with scientists going on at any of these events! Young-earth creationism is strictly for homeschooling and church. It’s not field-tested for use on the battlefield!

Meanwhile, old-earthers like William Lane Craig are debating against evolution at Indiana University against the top evolutionist in the USA, Francisco Ayala. And he debated prominent New Atheist Christopher Hitchens in front of 5000 people earlier this year at Biola University, too. So you must make your choice from this information about what arguments are useful in the real world. What works in public.

Watch a debate, then decide for yourself

All young earth creationists should watch the debate between Kent Hovind and Hugh Ross below. Kent Hovind has a PhD from a Patriot Bible College in Religious Education. Hugh Ross has a BS in Physics from the University of British Columbia, a MS in Physics and a PhD in Astronomy, both from the University of Toronto, one of the top universities in Canada. He did post-doctoral work at Caltech, the top graduate school for science in the world.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8
Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12
Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16

Watch the debate, then decide for yourself!

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