5/25/2005

Mormons, Evolution & a Young Earth

I have now almost finished what is perhaps the best book on reconciling evolution with God that I have ever read. Kenneth Miller's "Finding Darwin's God: a Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution" really lays out the issues involved in such a clear way that one really comes to appreciate both many of the pit falls of both creationism and the more evangelical naturalists such as Dawkins. While I have yet to reach the final chapters where he finally reveals his attempt at reconciliation, I have already covered his chapters regarding the two camps.

Instead of lumping creationism altogether in one camp (after all, by the strictest of definitions he would be a creationist as well) he separates them by according to how much science each version rejects. Those who, like Behe, accept common descent but think that God played a significant role in the matter, such as overcoming 'irreducible complexity' he calls their God, "God the Mechanic." The God of those who allow for an ancient earth, but reject common descent he calls "God the Magician." And the God of those who believe that the earth is more or less 10,000 years old, he calls "God the Charlatan." It is this last God which I would like to address in this post.

This is the God of those who claim that the earth isn't really that old and that the dating of all those fossils and the like simply aren't any where near right. This is principally due to the fact that before the fall of Adam the laws of the universe were quite different. This is what our friend Gary has been suggesting. Before we get to a Mormon critique of this version, let's first review what Miller has to say on the subject about Christians in general who believe this.

First of all, he states that such people are not really intested in science or what they have to say at all. It's not that they think that the finding are merely off, but that they really don't want science done at all. (Of course this accusation doesn't apply across the board.) This can be seen in that if their beliefs that all the animals we see in the fossil record really lived at the same time, then we should be able to see quite a few things which would completely destroy evolution. For instance, if we found within the petrified feces of Tyrannosaraus Rex (and we do have quite a few specimens of it) bones or seeds from animals of plants which were supposed to have lived well after them, this would spell disaster for the evolutionists. Not only has this not played out, but the Young Earth Creationists don't even try to investigate such things. They don't want evidence of any kind. Of course this make one wonder why. (Where is their faith?)

He talks a bit about radiometric dating and clearly shows why we believe the earth to be 4.5 billion years old. He puts the dating of the earth in its original context. Darwin stated that the earth had to be MUCH older than was believed at his time. He stuck his neck out saying that if the earth was not millions of years old, his theory would be absolutely wrong. Everything was literaly on the line. Then cam along nuclear physics which showed that not only was the earth millions of years old (something which was well beyong what anybody at the time thought), but it was in fact BILLIONS of years old. What a brilliant score for Darwin! (And people believe that evolution is untestable.)

He goes on to talk about using nuclear decay in the solar system to date it as well. He clearly show that if the solar system were less than a billion years old, it could very easily be shown, but such has not been the case. What he could have also mentioned, but didn't really, was how our dating of the geological record is not based exclusively on radiometric dating, though that method is by itself enough to thoroughly destroy doubt in most reasonable people's mind. We could suggest that the rates have changed in the past but there are three problems: 1) we would have be believe that ALL of the rates changed together (something which is practically impossible) 2) we can look back in time by observing distand stars and galaxies which are millions of light years away from us and see that they obeyed the same laws as we do now and 3) the radiometric dates match VERY well with our non-radiometric dating techniques, and there are many.

The only way that any person can really maintain that this solar system, this earth and all its fossils are not as old as they appear to be, would be by suggesting that God changed them to look old. Coincidence, or accident is simply not an option. God must have created the 'appearance of age' as the creationists call it. God created things to specifically look not only older, but to look like they were 4.5 billion years old. How can this be viewed as anything but deception? Thus, not only is this view of the universe bad science, but it makes for bad theology as well.

Let's move this toward a Mormon perspective where things are even worse for a number of reasons. Why does God admonish us to seek learning in the heavens and in the earth if He knows these things in no way depict reality as it really is/was? Is He commanding us to believe a lie? We believe that God didn't create the universe, He organized it. Did he organize all those photons apparently coming from distant galaxies for any particular reason?

But wait. We don't even believe that it was God who caused these changes, it was Adam by his sinning. Isn't this the popular version of the fall which is being clinged to so tenaciously? 'We have to believe that we are in a fallen existence in order to believe in atonement. We have to believe that we are fallen because of Adam, not God. Therefore, the world is as it is because of Adam, not God.' Are we going to believe that Adam was somehow able to give the appearance of a specific age to the universe in his fall?

But wait, it gets worse. The physical laws are eternal. God didn't create them, instead He works in accordance with them. He can't break or change them and this is why all miracles are in accordance with natural law according to Mormon doctrine. Thus God not only didn't change the physical laws in order to give the appearance of a specific age, He couldn't have done it. He couldn't change the physical laws of the unverse at all.

'But clearly the pre-fallen existence was different somehow,' some will protest. That's true, but even in this protest we are supposing that it was a different existence, not the same existence only changed. Adam fell from an immortal spiritual world to this telestial world, a world which has always had the same basic physical laws. And since the laws have always been more or less the same, the dating of the solar system, the planet and the fossils are all accurate. Clearly there has been death on this planet for a long time.

To finish, let's consider a story. Suppose we have a man who was raised Mormon on trial for murder somewhere in Utah. There is a mountian of physical evidence which clearly points to his guilt. In comes the defense lawyer who argues as follows:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. We all know that the past is behind us and we simply cannot be absolutely sure what happened unless we were there. Were any of you there? Of course not. How do we know that all of that evidence used by the prosecution is not, in fact, misleading? How we know that the laws of the universe were not different in the room he was in and at that particular time? Can we be sure? No, we can't be positively sure.
Of course we need at least some reason to believe that such might have been the case. I have here in my hand this man's patriarchal blessing. It clearly says that he would always be strong in the faith. Ladies and Gentleman, is murder something that people who are strong in the faith do? Of course not. Therefore, if we accept that this man actually did commit the murder, then this patriarchal blessing which was given by revelation was in fact false. This would mean that the church is false. The ver existence of God is called into question. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, are you prepared to accept that?
I want you to know that I am positive that that evidence is all misleading. God or someone else, only gave it the appearance that it does in order to try our faith. We simply have no clue what the laws of the universe were at the time of that murder, if in fact there really was one at all. After all, there is only one alternative, and I don't think any of us wants to accept those consequences. My client is clearly innocent.

Would any of us really buy that? I don't think even the most faithful of Mormons would ever go for that.

Summary: The evidence for an ancient earth, complete with death before the fall is simply over whelming. To suggest that God anybody else has altered reality to give it the appearance of age is not only bad science but terrible theology as well.

3 Comments:

Combined with nuclear decay and fossils are the tales our genes tell--such as in my recent post on amylase.

It's as though we are amnesiacs with backpacks that contain maps of places we are told we never visted, pictures with people we are told we never knew, and empty wrappers of food we are told we never ate. What is in our backpack may not tell us everything about who we are, but should we fundamentally deny its importance?

How can all things denote that there is a God if all things are deceptive? 

Posted by Jared

5/25/2005 02:14:00 PM  

I like that.

I think that these are issues which simply must be addressed by Gary & Co. if they are going to make any attempts at any kind of reconciliation of any sort. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

5/25/2005 02:27:00 PM  

Jeffrey: Great comments. I've posted a response here.

5/26/2005 11:16:00 PM  

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