Putting on a New Pair of Spectacles.
What if I am wrong About Creation? What does it Matter?
A few months ago I was challenged to look at the science of something that was against what I held as true for so long (relating to the age of the Earth). By starting that enquiry accepting I could be wrong, it helped me to examine why I might be wrong and prevent the temptation of me labeling someone else as “wrong, seriously deluded, ignorant and illiterate”.
What does it matter? A very good question! It matters because so many people are hostile to the idea of a creator because they believe evolution dismisses it. Sadly, so many Christians lose their faith once they are set free in the outside world and embrace what everyone tells them is the real truth.
In many places across the world teachers are prevented from teaching anything other than naturalistic science. Students are denied even the opportunity to explore it as a line of (scientific) enquiry because God is kept out of the classroom, and Christianity is relegated to just a set of values, not truths.
This issue matters because evolution often hardens people’s hearts. So many turn away from Christianity or relegate Christianity to a feeling they get on a Sunday because they believe the world we live in as a product of random chance, mutation and natural selection. Hardened hearts are reluctant to change.
Here’s a personal example. My wonderful, amazing wife and I don’t always agree. Sometimes things get a bit heated. If I believe I am completely right, and justify this with all the evidence I have at my disposal, and she does the same, then we get upset and go nowhere. Think of it as two people observing the same ‘facts’ with different spectacles. When I humble myself to put on her spectacles, to see things differently, I see she may be right (and often is!).
And so it is with this old earth/young earth creation/evolution debate. The age of the Earth is an important issue because it is just one of the evolution ‘facts’ we are presented with as evidence for evolutionary claims. If I simply superglue my ‘old Earth’ spectacles on and refuse to look at the other side through their spectacles, I go nowhere. If I allow myself to look at the evidence in a different way then I am open more to change what I believe. This is true of anyone, believer or unbeliever, creationist or evolutionist.
Even though I was unaware of it, my conversion to Christianity took many years of questioning a friend’s faith. Her gentle, kind answers were slowly eroding my belief that Christians were all delusional religious nutcases. Had she kept throwing her Bible at me and criticizing my disbelief, I dare say I wouldn’t be here writing this article.
Trying New Spectacles.
When I first started examining the case for a young earth, I did so not wanting to believe it. I didn’t want to believe it because it would mean I would have to change previously held beliefs. I did so in a way that was akin to CS Lewis, Lee Strobel or John McKay, by setting out to disprove something (upholding my current beliefs) rather than accept it.
I wanted to accept evolution as the best inference of the evidence. I wanted to accept the old earth as the best inference of the evidence I saw. Perhaps I am just intellectually quite lazy to accept the status quo and carry on as before. However, I love science and wanted to examine the data wearing a different set of spectacles. If nothing else, it would be a refreshing change.
The age of the Earth is really important for many reasons. I had little idea of the theological reasons why this is the case, but was acutely aware of the scientific implications.
Examining My Fossils with New Spectacles
I’ve a good collection of fossils which I started collecting long before I was a Christian, including my favourite one which is a fossilised bit of turtle poo (a coprolite). I was always thrilled at holding something what was apparently millions of years old. I never stopped to see some basic facts about poo from a sea-living turtle: it doesn’t hang around in tact for very long once it has come out of the turtle. Just that simple observation meant that I had unwittingly, just put on a different pair of spectacles.
And what I saw through those spectacles was something new. For it to be preserved as a perfect bit of poo, it wasn’t broken up on the way to its resting place and must have been fossilised very quickly. Alternatively, it had to be entombed very quickly to preserve its shape, and fossilised over however long it took. So if it was entombed very quickly, the resulting rock around it was probably laid down quite quickly too.
Alarm bells started to ring. Hang on, we’re told fossils are old because the rock strata they are found in are old (or vice versa). What I was being told went against the best inference of what I saw seeing. I wasn’t trying to fit this evidence into a previously held view; I was allowing the evidence to challenge it.
Being challenged in this way is quite disconcerting. So, I looked for evidence elsewhere to dismiss what I was seeing. Maybe turtle poo behaves differently to other organic materials? Maybe it can maintain its structure for millions of years to allow its mineralization? Sadly, as much as I wanted to dismiss this revelation, there didn’t seem to be much evidence to do so.
So examining the evidence from non-creation sources (I didn’t want to be ‘polluted’ by the ‘creationist nonsense’ I was being told was out there), I noticed that virtually all evidence seem to uphold the inference of rapid entombment. Most evidence said that the best condition for entombment is a flood, where large amounts of mud are deposited quickly which later form the sedimentary rock. Again, alarm bells were ringing as this geological consensus seemed to be using the words like ‘rapid’ and ‘fast’ yet the phrase ‘millions of years’ was introduced without any obvious reason why. That’s when I realised something profound: the data was trying to be squeezed into a particular worldview rather than challenge it.
The more I tried to dismiss the notion of young anything, the more I saw how the evidence supported it. Delicate organic materials decay quickly, so either something happens to them that I didn’t know about to preserve them for millions of years while the ‘slow’ fossilization takes place, or the entire fossilization process happens quickly. Which is the best inference?
There is plenty of data out there. There is plenty of data that science will uncover. I dare say some of it may really challenge what we have accepted (e.g. the speed of light is fixed and unsurpassable; the universe is billions of years old). I dare say the creation/evolution debate will linger until it is satisfactorily answered. The question is really whether we are willing to see the data with new spectacles and potentially change our mind.
So to end I will repeat why this is important. So many people have their hearts hardened to God by evolutionary ‘facts’, prevented from exploring any alternative to those ‘facts’ and may turn away from their faith because those ‘facts’ ‘prove’ there is no basis for their faith after all. I write these articles not because I have anything to prove, but because I have a heart for those who are lost, and if any hearts are softened through this debate by putting on a new pair of spectacles, then may all the glory of that new sight go to Him.