So in this month’s edition of Acts & Facts, the ICR’s monthly newsletter/magazine, Jake Hebert has written an article called “Earth’s Age: Science or Consensus?” This false dichotomy does not head an article that attempts to actually talk about, you know, the science behind how we know that the Earth is old, but instead discusses why some scientifically-minded Christians would not accept a young Earth. The point of the article seems to be to persuade the ICR’s own flock not to listen to the compromisers, for they have been deceived. He opens:
Many scientifically trained Christians are urging the church to accept the doctrine of an old earth, saying that the arguments for a 4.6-billion-year-old earth are simply too numerous and convincing to deny. These Christians would argue that they believe in an old earth simply because of the strong scientific case for it. But how can this be when few of them have actually studied old-earth arguments in detail?
You’re probably aware of the argument that people should “believe” in evolution and related subjects because there is a scientific consensus. That is to say, the vast majority of scientists agree on these matters, and so if you’re not prepared to launch your own in-depth investigation of the evidence that would be the best answer to pick. But to listen to Hebert this is the only reason why people would take an old-Earth position: they haven’t looked at the evidence like he has.
Most scientists are simply too busy with their own research to seriously investigate old-earth claims. And if someone has never thoroughly studied an old-earth argument, then how can he really understand it? Nor is this conclusion changed by specialized training: A scientific background in one field—even at the Ph.D. level—does not confer all-around expertise. And thinking that it does is as fallacious as thinking that a dentist is qualified to perform brain surgery!
In a moment of clarity Hebert acknowledges what we all know: that having a Ph.D. doesn’t make you an expert in everything. For example, according to his ICR bio Hebert got his masters studying optics, and his own Ph.D. is called “Atmospheric electricity data from Mauna Loa Observatory: Additional support for a global electric circuit-weather connection?” He doesn’t explain, however, why we should trust the folks at the ICR and their irrelevant degrees over actual geologists and evolutionary biologists. Presumably it’s because he has more time on his hands to write patronising articles.
He goes on:
Science—in the sense of genuine knowledge and understanding—is not the real reason many scholarly Christians accept the doctrine of an old earth. Rather, they accept this doctrine for the same reason that laypeople do: They trust the secular scientific community’s conclusions—the majority consensus—on the subject.
As I said, we atheists are deceiving the gullible “scholars.” Hebert is aware that some people might not take this assertion standing down, and says:
The old-earth Christian academic might bristle at this suggestion. He may insist that, unlike most laypeople, his belief in an old earth is based on genuine knowledge and understanding. He may very well be acquainted with many of the arguments for an old earth, but acquaintance is not the same thing as in-depth comprehension. Old-earth arguments may seem convincing on the surface, but this is because many involve oversimplifications and fail to acknowledge the unspoken but critical assumptions that go into them, assumptions that often implicitly deny even the possibility of creation and the Flood.
To translate: “you haven’t spent as much time on this as I have, however much that may be, so you’re wrong. Also, something something assumptions.” Time for some bible quotes:
Secular scientists may be quite knowledgeable in their specialty fields, and many people naively assume that claims about an old age of the earth couldn’t possibly be motivated by anything other than a simple desire for truth. However, it’s important to recognize the human mind’s natural hostility toward the things of God. Without faith in Christ, we are characterized by “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7) and described as those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Many Christians who advocate accommodation with old-earth ideas would unhesitatingly affirm these statements from Romans, but they also argue that an old age for the earth and universe cannot be questioned. But an old earth and universe simply cannot be reconciled with the plain meaning of Scripture.
So, non-Christians are inherently anti-Christian, and you shouldn’t trust a word they say. If they insist that the sky is blue you’d better run over to the ICR to ask their opinion. He goes on like that for a couple more paragraphs, before concluding:
Both scientific and historical data can be interpreted in more than one way. In a courtroom, prosecuting and defending attorneys can offer radically different interpretations of the very same forensic evidence. Because a given interpretation may seem superficially plausible, opposing sides are allowed to cross-examine one another. Probing questions may reveal problems in an interpretation of events, problems that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Despite popular hype, the preponderance of the evidence clearly favors the truthfulness of the Bible’s account of a young earth, and a biblical worldview is the key to making sense of both the scientific and historical data, as well as the meaning of life itself.
So on the one hand, the evidence can be interpreted in many ways, but on the other Hebert is definitely right. He doesn’t give us any evidence – neither directly about the age of the Earth, nor about how non-YECs formed their opinion – but he’s not an atheist, so he’s inherently trustworthy.