Friday, December 17, 2010

Beyond Our Ken: On Mature Creation. Part 1

"I’d love a bit of Apatosaurus but all we get is ham, ham, ham"

I have been looking into the concept of “mature creation” as propounded by the Young Earth aficionados on the Answers in Genesis web site. Reading some of their web pages it becomes clear they much prefer the terms “mature creation” or “functioning creation” to “appearance of age”. They don’t like their supporters talking about an “appearance of age” because, for reasons we are well aware of, AiG don’t believe in a cosmos of great age and therefore won’t accept that the universe even “looks” old. As Ken Ham says (See here)

“By saying the universe looks old, you are trusting that dating methods can give us an apparent old age for the universe—but they can’t.” Let me explain. When people say the universe has “apparent age,” usually they are assuming, for whatever reason, that the universe “looks old.” I have often found that, unconsciously, such people have already accepted that the fallible dating methods of scientists can give great ages for the earth. So if they believe what the Scripture says about a young universe, they have to explain away this apparent great age.

What Ken is saying here is that he completely distrusts any dating methods. That’s really not news, of course - if he did trust them he’d be out of his job as AiG supremo. Given that few, if any, dating methods return Earth’s history to be anything as short as 6000 years it is no surprise that AiG policy is to do its damndest to undermine all dating methods. Rather than propose a reliable physical dating method themselves, AiG science is the science of negation. However, later on in the same article Ken goes on to show that in his mind the appearance of age is not just loaded with the concept of a chronological age:

When doctors look at the human body today, they can estimate age from various evidences in the body. But before sin, nothing aged—everything was created “very good.” The human body did not experience the effects of sin or aging.
What would a doctor from today’s fallen world say if he looked at Adam and Eve’s bodies just after they were created? This doctor would be very confused. Such perfect bodies would show no degenerative aging, and he would be shocked to learn that these adults were less than a day old.

Here, in addition to chronological age, Ken is loading the term “age” also with the idea of degeneration. Ken, of course, believes the process of cosmic degeneration originates from Adam’s sin. So, when he says “before sin, nothing aged” he means that “before sin, nothing degenerated”.

In introducing the concept of degeneration Ken is actually clouding the argument because clearly evidence of an object having a history does not necessarily imply degeneration. For example, all human beings today have navels – a navel is not in itself evidence of temporal degeneration of the human body but simply evidence of its history – namely, that each individual was formed in the womb. So we must distinguish between degenerative age and Chronological age. Regardless of whether they degenerate or not objects have a history. Two questions then naturally arise: Firstly, do objects with a history carry evidence of that history? Secondly can we quantify that history in units of time? The answer to these questions may be “yes” or “no”: Some objects carry more information about their history than others. Some objects have lots of information about their history even to the extent that we may be able to quantify their age. Others have little or no information and to all intents and purposes are a-historical.

Given that some objects display inherently historical features and others are a-historical, then we find that this fact determines the policy of AiG: Objects which contain little or no historical information means that AiG can claim that they were created as fully functioning objects, whereas objects that have blatantly historical indicators forces AiG to endeavour to reconstruct a history (< 6000 years of course) to explain these indicators.

As I have said before we must be grateful for small mercies. The AiG policy is at least an improvement on those forms of Young Earth Creationism that have no qualms about the ex nihilo creation of objects with a bogus appearance of history: Notorious examples are those YECs who claim that the light from the stars was created in mid flight and that fossils were created in situ. As a rule AiG shies away from this sort of approach because it clearly impugns the integrity of the created order and shows little respect for it. At least AiG haven’t become so uselessly spiritual that they have adopted a comprehensively anti-science stance and retreated into a fideist ghetto of spiritual ultras. But the trouble is, as we shall see, some objects don’t easily slide one way or the other into the historical and a-historical categories; like most real categories the boundaries are fuzzy. be continued

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