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YEC

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Young Earth Creationism and Presuppositionalism: An Analysis

Young Earth Creationism stands or falls based upon the specific use of presuppositionalism as an epistemological groundwork. Here, I will challenge the very core of the young earth paradigm: I will charge that it is an invalid presuppositionalist approach to viewing science and theology.

Young Earth Creationism (YEC will be used hereafter for “young earth creationism,” “young earth creationist”  and other forms of those words as needed), is, of course, the position that the Genesis account of the creation of the universe took place over the course of  seven literal 24-hour days about 6-12,000 years ago. I have extensively explored various aspects of young earth creationism and other positions, and my posts can be found under the “Origins Debate” page.

Presuppositionalism is a type of apologetics (defense of the faith) which relies upon presupposing the truth of the Christian worldview in order to defend it. I have analyzed presuppositional apologetics a number of times. For an introduction into this position, check out “The Presuppositional Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til.”

Epistemology is the study of how we come to know things. Essentially, it asks questions like “How do we know that we know?”

Before proceeding, it is worth noting that many debates between YECs and people who believe in an ‘old earth’ perspective turn on the YEC use of presuppositionalism. A common theme for mocking YECs is to say they just refuse to hear evidence or shout over evidence, yet it seems that this is an unfair portrayal. As we evaluate the young earth position, it will become clear that the YEC perspective operates from within a presuppositional framework that explains much of the way YECs reason. It will also become clear, however, that the YEC use of this framework is invalid.

Thus, it is my contention that YEC is directly dependent upon a presuppositional approach to how we know things. For support of this contention, I note the fact that many YECs see this connection themselves. For example, Answers in Genesis has a number of posts on the topic, including a post outlining the meaning of and need for presuppositional apologetics. Or again, Nathaniel Jeanson of ICR presented a presuppositional case for YEC (analyzed by the Geochristian). However, this is not the only evidence. YECs tend to argue exclusively within a presuppositional framework.

Consider this argument:

The Bible clearly states that the earth was made in seven days. There is no room to interpret the text in any way other than as a literal week of creation.

Such an argument is extremely typical within the YEC community. However, it is also clearly a presuppositionalist approach to the question of the age of the earth. YECs will argue that science must be interpreted in such away as to line up with the creation account. A common theme is that “The data is the same, it is the interpretations of that data that differ,” another notion is that people are rejecting the “plain and obvious meaning of the text” when they offer an old earth interpretation. Such a position is often united with the notion that only by using “man’s fallible ideas” can one come up with a date of millions or billions of years.

The thought process goes in this order: we presuppose the truth of the Bible => the Bible teaches that the earth is 6-12,000 years old => all scientific evidence for the age of the earth must line up with the truth of the Bible. The Bible is the infallible word of God, and so it cannot be in error. Because, according to the YEC paradigm, the only possible interpretation for the Biblical account of creation is the young earth perspective, it therefore becomes clear that all science and truth must line up with YEC.

We are thus left with two possible ways to challenge YEC. Evidence simply is not the problem. Any evidence, if the YEC use of presuppositionalism is valid, simply must line up with YEC. Thus, to challenge YEC, one must confront directly its presuppositions. First, one can challenge the position by attacking the premise that the YEC paradigm is the only possible interpretation of the Genesis creation account. Second, one can challenge the position by directly attacking the presuppositional epistemological groundwork that the arguments are built upon. Rather than focus upon the first challenge, we will here explore whether or not the YECs have validly made use of the presuppositional approach.

Assuming a Young Earth

It is important to note that the way the YEC argument works is to begin by simply assuming the truth of young earth creationism. I know this may sound radical, but it plays out time and again when discussing the various positions on the age of the earth. The young earth paradigm brokers no alternatives; only the young earth perspective is even possibly correct. How is it that YECs are so confident in their approach?

Simply put, the confidence is gained from the very way that they defend the young earth. YEC is not defended based upon evidence. It is not as though scientists are examining the earth and coming to the conclusion that the earth was formed only some thousands of years ago. Indeed, several prominent YECs assert that the very notion of finding the age of the earth from investigation of the geologic past is impossible or hampered by sin and fallible ideas. For just one example, Whitcomb and Morris, in their highly influential work, The Genesis Flood, write:

[I]f He [God] did this [created a universe full-grown], there would be no way by which any of His creatures could deduce the age or manner of Creation by study of the laws of maintenance of His Creation. (238, emphasis theirs, cited below)

Such a notion persists throughout much YEC literature. In principle, the only way to conclude a young earth is to abandon supposed “uniformintarianism” (hold that the processes in place today continue at the same rate they did in the past–see an evaluation of one YEC’s use of this notion here) and view all of the history of the earth through the lens of God’s word. Now, whether or not it is valid to assume that the Genesis text is a scientific account, the argument here should be fairly clear. Namely, the young earth position is assumed. It is not something demonstrated by science, but rather a given before any scientific investigation takes place. Similarly, the position is assumed to be true before any exegesis has occurred. All scientific evidence and any exegetical hints at a different position are subsumed into the YEC position because it is assumed from the outset as correct. Because YEC is correct, all evidence must line up with it.

Some may object by arguing that frequently YECs offer evidence for their position. They may cite various catastrophic theories or flood geology as alternative explanations of Earth’s geologic past. However, even the authors of books like these (such as Whitcomb and Morris, or Walter Brown in his In the Beginning) admit that the key is to presuppose Scripture, which is of course, on their view, to presuppose a young earth.

The Validity of the Young Earth Assumption

It is clear that YEC turns upon presupposing its truth. YEC is assumed to be true, and all alternative views are simply wrong by default. Unfortunately, this is an abuse of presuppositional apologetics.

It is important to contrast the specifically YEC use of presuppositionalism with the wider use of presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics in general is the method of engaging entire worldviews by granting their core assumptions and lining them up against reality in a competition of best explanation. The YEC use of presuppostionalism is to defend a single contention–a young earth–against all comers. There are very significant disanalogies here. What the YEC has done is use presuppositionalism not to enter into the square of debate over whole worldviews, but rather to insulate their interpretation against any possible counter-evidence.

There is a distinct difference between the use of presuppositional apologetics, and the use of YEC in presuppositionalism. The latter tends to simply reject outright any challenge as either against the “clear word of God” or as “assuming uniformitarianism.”  By placing their own view beyond the realm of rational inquiry, they have undermined their own potential to know that it is true.

The Faulty Grounds of the YEC Presuppositionalist

The foregoing evaluation leads us to the greatest difficulty facing the YEC approach: a faulty epistemology. Unfortunately, the way that the defense of YEC has been shown to work introduces a paradigm of knowledge which is impossible to sustain. Essentially, the YEC must assume what they think they know. Such an assumption seems to be viciously circular. The YEC must reason thus: “The Bible teaches a young earth=> The Bible is True=> the earth is young.” When presented with counter evidence, rather than engaging with the evidence, the YEC generally falls back to this same argument and reinterprets the evidence. That is where the whole system breaks down: the YEC has not made the right use of presuppositionalism, which allows for entire worldviews to be falsified. Instead, the YEC has misused presuppostionalism to put a young earth interpretation beyond falsification.

The objection will be made that everyone has core beliefs that must be assumed without evidence. Although such an assertion is itself hotly debated, I think it is possible to sidestep such a difficult discussion. Instead, one can note that even if one grants that core beliefs are necessarily assumed, the burden of proof is squarely placed upon the YEC to show how holding to a young earth is necessary for knowledge. Why is this the case? The simplest explanation is that if one assumes the epistemology needed for presuppositionalism is correct, then one has essentially a framework that involves the assumption of core beliefs that are necessary to allow for any knowledge. Thus, for example, the existence of God might be argued as necessary for knowledge (a la Alvin Plantinga, Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, and the like) because without God to make us rational, there is no basis for thinking that our beliefs have any actual relationship to reality. Whether or not this is the case, it seems that a young earth is not one of these core beliefs.

Thus, we have finally come to the ultimate failing of the presuppositional defense of YEC: it abuses its epistemological framework to the point of breaking. The YEC has utilized an epistemological approach that allows for core beliefs to be assumed, but has done so in such a way that essentially any belief could be assumed with equal validity. An old earth creationist or theistic evoloutionist could equally argue that their position is based upon a core belief that must be assumed, in which case YEC is undermined. In turn, they could assume their reading of Scripture and make all others wrong by default.

Presuppositionalism must walk a fine line to determine which presuppositions are genuinely those which must be assumed for knowledge. When challenged, the presuppositionalist must make arguments to show that the presuppositions are indeed necessary for knowledge. Unless and until a YEC makes a case that by abandoning the notion of a young earth, one necessarily undermines all knowledge–a case which I must admit seems impossible–the YEC use of presuppositionalism is undermined. Rather than making a valid use of that apologetic approach, YECs have undermined its very principles, and have thus eliminated their own possibility of knowledge. They have relativized all truth by introducing as “first principles” things which are not necessary for knowledge.

A Final Defense

The YEC may object, saying that they have indeed established that YEC is necessary for knowledge. After all, if one denies YEC, which is the clear teaching of Scripture, one has denied God’s word, which is the basis for the entire presuppositional approach.

Setting aside a critique of presuppositionalism as the notion that one must assume the entirety of Scripture to have any knowledge, I would respond by simply noting that this argument does nothing to rebut my charge. I have argued that believing the notion that the earth is merely thousands of years old is not necessary for knowledge. The burden of proof rests squarely on the YEC to show how it is. By merely asserting that denying YEC undermines all of Scripture, one has begged the question. They have engaged in a presuppositional defense of something for which it has been charged that such an approach is epistemologically impossible. In order to defend it, one cannot simply assume that the other side is wrong, one must show how they are wrong.

Objective Knowledge

We have seen that YEC misuses presuppositionalism. A final point worth noting is that the YEC approach to apologetics actually undermines the possibility of objective knowledge. For, as we have noted, the YEC simply assumes their interpretation of the text without argument and then evaluates all science and theology through that lens. However, the YEC offers no reason for rejecting the notion that others could do exactly the same thing with their interpreatations of the text. The YEC has essentially made all truth relative. Anyone can simply assume their position is correct without argument, and then reinterpret all counter-evidence based on that approach. It therefore becomes clear that the YEC use of presuppositionalism must be rejected.

Unfortunately for YECs, the young earth position itself stands upon the bedrock of its faulty use of presuppositionalism. It remains to be seen whether it can adapt itself for a solid evidential base.

A Way Forward in the Age of the Earth Dialogue

It has become clear that YEC is based upon a faulty use of presuppositionalism and that its use of the presuppositional approach undermines the very possibility of objective knowledge.

How, then, can one proceed? It seems that the best way to proceed is to simply throw off the bindings of the misuse of presuppositionalism (taking note that presuppositionalism in general is not necessarily invalid if used properly–see discussion here) and engage in an honest debate over the evidence for either position. Rather than throwing out rote accusations at the other side (“You’re denying Scripture”; “That’s just because you’re assuming ‘uniformitarianism'”; etc, etc), let us engage in dialogue on the evidence at hand. Let’s look at the text in its cultural and linguistic context. Let’s examine the geological evidence of the earth and see where the evidence leads us. Let us not cut off the discussion before it has even begun by simply assuming we’re right and the others are wrong. We are called to always have a reason (1 Peter 3:15). By abandoning the necessity of reasoning when it comes to an issue such as young earth creationism, YECs have undermined the very possibility of a consistent apologetic.

Links

I examine a number of common young earth creationist arguments. Also check out my extensive writings on the origins debate.

Naturalis Historia is a phenomenal site which largely focuses upon investigating claims about a young earth. Some great starting places would be the series on the amount of salt in the oceans (Part 1 here) or some of the thoughts on baraminology.

Geocreationism is another site that examines evidence for the age of the earth with a theological approach. I highly recommend it.

Finally, the GeoChristian offers a number of critiques of the young earth theological and scientific perspectives.

Sources

John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, The Genesis Flood 50th Anniversary Edition (P&R Publishing, 2011).

The last image is from NASA. The other images were personal photographs and protected by the copyright on this site.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Really Recommended Posts 1/4/13

postReaders, I encourage you to check out the posts I have linked here. Let me know what you think and be sure to check out the other Really  Recommended Posts!

What’s Wrong with the Zeitgeist Movie? – Jonathan McLatchie has written this excellent article which thoroughly rebuts the Zeitgeist movie. That movie claims that Jesus is an amalgamation of Pagan myths and never actually existed. It claims that the very foundation of Christianity is a lie. McLatchie’s examination dispels this claims in the movie with insight. I highly recommend reading this.

Philosophical Arguments Destroy “Pro-Choice” Case on Abortion – Clinton Wilcox presents a fantastic look at how strong the philosophical arguments against abortion are, along with an evaluation of some common pro-choice arguments.

Time for a New Hobby – An apologetics comic (!) which poignantly shows the truth about end-of-the-world predictions. Short, sweet, and awesome.

Alien Particles Challenge a Young-Earth Creationist Model – This fascinating article presents a great difficulty with the young earth paradigm. Namely, the fact that we have particles from places which are too far away for a young universe. It’s a fascinating read. Check it out.

Apologetics: Fighting Last Year’s Battles, Last Year’s Way – A really insightful post on the need for story with arguments. A worldview is a story of how the universe works, and it is important to keep that in mind. This will stretch your mind.

J.P. Moreland’s EPS Address– I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 ETS/EPS conference. J.P. Moreland’s address was fantastic, with a message that deserves to be heard. I have written on the conference itself here.

 

Shells and the Biomass of Earth: A serious problem for young earth creationists

Imagine an earth covered with 15 creatures per square foot. And no, these creatures are not merely bacteria; rather, they are animals which can produce shells. The sheer amount of biomass would be so great that none of the creatures could survive. Their food would all be gone and their habitat insustainable. Over at Naturalis Historia, the Natural Historian has written a compelling article about how just the fossilized shells in one portion of the Midwest lead to extreme problems for the Young Earth position.

The author of that post did a brief survey of fossils over a 300×500 mile section of the Midwest from West Virginia to Eastern Missouri and from southern Kentucky to the middle of Indiana and Ohio. Utilizing samples and several calculations which were based off of these samples, he decided to try to calculate how thick a layer would be of fossils if just this area (totally covered in fossils) were spread out over the surface of the entire planet. He was able to conclude that “15 shells per square foot are estimated…” over the surface of the earth just from this sampling. Readers should note that in his article  he utilized the lower end on his estimates in order to avoid tilting the scale in favor of an old earth position.

What is the point of this discussion? Who cares? Well this fact actually presents young earth creationism (YEC) with a few major difficulties:

…even 15 shells trying to live within the space of a square foot at the same time would have trouble.  One also has to consider several other things:

1)  Not all the surface of the earth was ocean before the flood, if we say that 50% of the surface was land then that would mean there were 30 shells per square foot in the ocean.

2)  In addition, most organisms that produced these shells likely could only live in shallow water along coasts not in the deep ocean so unless the whole ocean were very shallow (and I think some claim that it was, although that presents some other very perplexing problems) then that would also dramatically reduce the space in which these shells could have grown and died.

3)  The shells are not sorted at all by size, as very small (<1cm) to large (>4cm) shells are always found mixed with one another.

Each of these is presents a different difficulty with YEC. For, as the author noted, the shells he surveyed is only one small sample of untold amounts of these deposits across the surface of the earth (see below for my own samples and some analysis). Now if YEC is correct, then all of these creatures would have had to live over the course of around 10,000 years (or fewer). Think about that for a moment. I know from personal experience that the area covered with these shells is about twice as large as estimated in the numbers already referenced above, and so we are then talking about 30 creatures per square foot over the surface of the earth. But then consider that these types of formations can be found across America and across the earth. I have no way to estimate the numbers, but ultimately we’re talking about a simply astounding amount of life living on the surface of the earth in that short of a time span. It would be physically impossible for the sheer weight of living creatures to survive at the same time. If the Earth were only about 10,000 years old, then we would have been knee deep or even buried in shell-producing creatures over the course of our lives.

Not only that, but these creatures would have been competing for resources like food and air (think about how much oxygen these creatures would have sucked up all at once!). And again, it’s not like the entire surface of the earth would have been habitable–these creatures live only in shallow waters. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that if all these creatures lived over the course of 10,000 years then the oceans would have overflowed with them.

The image I have linked to the right shows a pair of stones discovered in limestone in Kansas. There were literally dozens of feet of fossils just like these as far as the eye could see in the Castle Rock formation in Kansas. One could just walk up and pick a rock up off the ground and it would be like the picture to the right. There are places one can’t walk without stepping on large numbers of fossils. The picture that is at the beginning of this post is a picture I took while in this formation. It is not just the author of the article above who has observed the seemingly unending supply of fossils throughout the Midwest. I myself have observed limestone formations with fossils like these across Kansas for hours and hours of interstate. Not only that, but I grew up in northwest Indiana and observed massive limestone formations there as well. Here in Minnesota, one can also observe limestone along cutouts of the highway and elsewhere. One can go to areas along the Mississippi here in Minnesota and pick up fossilized shells along the riverbed.

So imagine that the estimates listed above by the Natural Historian are correct on the low end. Now imagine that all of Kansas is covered with these shells–I can attest to it. Imagine further that more portions of the Midwest are covered with other types of limestone which also would have added to the biomass of earth. Again, the numbers are staggering.

How in the world did all of this biomass get here within a few (10?) thousand years? That is the question which young earth positions must deal with. Note that the argument and evidence in this post do not rely upon any dating system, any background knowledge, or other scientific dating systems YECs tend to denigrate. Note that the argument only shows what is observable and asks a question: how did it get here? YECs would have to come up with some way to plausibly explain how all these creatures could have had their lives condensed into about 10,000 years.

God is not a liar (Numbers 23:19). The natural world attests to Him (Psalm 19). These conjoined Biblical points tell us that when we go outside and observe that the life we can observe in the past could not have all lived within 10,000 years, then it did not. Those who claim otherwise seemingly must either introduce a third option (some plausible explanation for these creatures’ lives–and note that it must be more plausible than the argument that they lived and died at the same rate they do now and that the world is simply old enough to have had that much life and death over the course of time) or they fall victim to a dilemma involving the cited verses: either the natural world does not attest to the Truth or God is actively deceiving us. The bottom line is that this is just one more hole in the Young Earth position. YEC is, simply put, false.

Appendix 1: A response to one objection

There have already been a few responses to this post on places other than this site. One response argued that the samples which I and/or Natural Historian took were not representative of the fossil record. Here is my brief response:

Take a trip through the Midwest sometime and look at the cuts through the highways. Every single time you pass through one in Kansas it is absolutely filled with limestone and fossil-rich rock. The same happens  through most of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, etc. I could literally walk up to a wall of shells and pull out a huge sampling of them.

Now suppose this isn’t representative. Suppose that it just so happened, at random, that the roads were set up in such a way that they only hit the most fossil-rich deposits out there. What does that mean?

Not very much. We can observe these same deposits all over the world. The sheer amount of these deposits means that we could very easily produce the number of fossils Natural Historian estimates over just the Midwest.

Again, to clarify, I’m saying let’s assume that Natural Historian overestimated several thousand(milliion?)-fold and so the number of fossils he estimates for the midwest can only be gathered if we collect them from all over the earth, and only from those highway cuts or other points of exposure where such deposits have observed (again, making the extreme assumption that only those places which have happened to get hit by highways or erosion are those with these deposits). But in that case, we can still gather enough fossils to say the entire surface of the earth could be covered by about 15 fossils per square foot.

But wait–these fossils don’t occur in deep oceans or on land. They only occur in shallow oceans. Suddenly we’re up to about 30 per square foot if we assume they occurred in water anywhere (including riverbeds, deep oceans, and the like). But eliminate the places these types of fossils do not occur and the number of fossils increases even more.

Suddenly we find that the exact problem I raised above remains a problem–even if we only take those fossils which are exposed now (and again note that this is a huge underestimate and requires extreme blind faith that there are no other fossils under the ground anywhere, not to mention the fact that there may be even more fossils that are exposed which could drive that number up exponentially). There has been simply too much life on earth to maintain a young earth position.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Naturalis Historia: Is Young Earth Creationism True?

I recently came upon what is, in my opinion, the finest collection of essays challenging the scientific aspects of Young Earth Creationism to date. The blog, Naturalis Historia features a broad spectrum of posts offering challenges to Young Earth perspectives from a scientific viewpoint. I can’t recommend the blog highly enough. Below are a few links with brief summaries of the contents.

An Ancient and Alien Forest Reconstructed– the recent finds of several fossilized forests have revealed alien landscapes not similar to our own forests in any way. In fact, many of these ancient forests lack any kind of flowering plant whatsoever. If the biodiversity found across all of fossil history is compressed into a young earth timespan, the possibility of explaining these anomalous forests without contemporary features becomes extremely difficult for young earthers. Another forest found in New York exacerbates the problem.

The impact craters from various meteorites presents another difficulty for YEC. Dating these craters puts them well beyond the allowances of a young earth perspective, but the young earth explanations stretch credibility beyond the breaking point.

What of dinosaur eggs? The fact is that these eggs are found across the various strata. Now most YECs I have read argue that the large amounts of sediment across the earth were deposited by the Flood. If that is the case, then how did these dinosaur nests appear across various layers. Natural Historian put forward this challenge in the post, “Juvenile Dinosaur Fossils In a Nest…”  One current YEC explanation is that the dinosaurs moved on top of the sediment as it was deposited and laid their eggs on the various layers, which were then covered as the rains continued to fall. The problem is that discoveries have now been made of juveniles in these nests, which would mean they would have had to hatch and grow before being buried by the Flood. Again, this truly stretches credulity beyond the breaking point.

What is the point of linking to these posts and challenging YEC? I am a devout Christian and I’ve struggled with the issues involved in this debate myself. I’ve written extensively on the topics involved and I continually seek to read and understand more about the debate. So why have I been focusing on rebutting YEC? The more I’ve read on the topics involved, the more I’ve realized that YEC truly does undermine the Christian faith. I’m not suggesting those who defend YEC are actively seeking to discredit Christianity; no, I think that YECs generally have their hearts in the right place–they are seeking to defend what they view as the only possible Biblical position against attack. The problem is that when one investigates the scientific evidence, one finds that if one ties Christianity to YEC, it simply cannot hold up to a deep investigation. The issues above are just a number of peripheral problems with YEC, and I don’t see any feasible answers forthcoming on just those topics. There are a great many to be found over at Naturalis Historia, as well as across the web. We must not marry Christianity to positions that are indefensible.

Animal Death?- A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism

[Answers in Genesis recently posted a critique of this article. I have responded here.] I have explored extensively the varied positions within Christianity about the origins and diversity of life. I come from a background in which I was a young earth creationist for quite some time, but my research has caused me to reject this position in favor of another. Those reading this article, please understand I do not wish to denigrate or devalue those who are young earth creationists (hereafter YEC and YECs). I appreciate that many who are YEC are doing their work in the field because they feel it is closest to the Biblical position and that they often believe science supports their view. That said, I cannot agree. In the following, I present a theological argument against the YEC position.

One of the theological arguments YECs use against other Christian positions (such as Intelligent Design or Theistic Evolutionism) is that it would imply death before the fall. I tried to track down an explicit syllogistic form of this argument and couldn’t find any in the literature with which I am familiar, however the argument is everywhere presented. For example, Ken Ham writes in The New Answers Book 1:

The book of Genesis teaches that death is the result of Adam’s sin… and that all of God’s creation was ‘very good’ upon its completion… But if we compromise the history of Genesis by adding millions of years, we must believe that death and disease were part of the world before Adam sinned… How could a God of love allow such horrible processes as disease, suffering, and death for millions of years as part of his ‘very good’ creation? (36)

Elsewhere, we can find statements like this: “The Bible tells us very clearly that there was no death before sin from many passages. In fact, there are no Bible verses indicating there was death prior to sin.”

Now it is not my point in this post to cite every disagreement I have with such arguments (there are a great deal of them), but rather to show that the implications of an argument like this are absurd. One immediate problem with the argument is that it begs the question in the opening sentence by smuggling in a hidden premise. Namely, the notion that all death is the result of sin, as opposed to the death of mankind or a kind of spiritual death. Further, note the conflation of the terms in the second quote–just because there are no Bible verses which show there was death before sin, it does not follow that the Bible teaches that there was no death before sin. But those parts aside, I wish to show that this argument from YECs actually works against their position.

Suppose we lay out the argument:

  1. Death is the result of sin.
  2. If YEC is false, then things died before sin.
  3. Therefore, if YEC is false, God is unjust.

Now I know this is not the full argument. There are many premises I have left unstated, but it seems that is the gist of the passage cited from Ham. Why do I find this problematic? Well, it seems that the logic is that if death happened because of sin, then animals would not have died before the fall. But if that is the case, then why do animals die after the fall? The post on Answers in Genesis hints that it is because animals are cursed due to the serpent’s deception of Adam and Eve (cited below). One is still forced to wonder why all animals are cursed because a serpent–Satan–deceived Adam and Eve. Thus we are led to the following argument:

  1. If animals did not die before the fall, then their death must be the result of sin.
  2. Animals are incapable of sinning. (They have no culpability.)
  3. Therefore, their death would have to be the result of morally culpable agents’ sins.

But this argument, it seems, shows that YEC is morally impermissible. For on YEC, animals died because of Adam’s sin. The animals themselves didn’t do anything. One day, they were happily living potentially infinitely long lives, eating plants, and doing their animal things. The next day, Adam sinned, and so God decides to start killing them all, putting countdowns on their lifespans. But why? Because Adam sinned, not because they themselves sinned. Thus, animals, through no culpability of their own, suffered the punishment of death for Adam’s sin. This seems to be morally impossible.

Now it seems the YEC position could be modified to get around this argument, but it would have to drop the argument against the other positions that death could not have happened before the fall. The modification would essentially have to hold that animals were part of the natural world which lived and died. Or, the YEC position could charge that animals were moral agents, but that would seem absurd. Finally, the YEC position could hold that, somehow, the serpent’s culpability transferred to all other animals, but that would seem extremely difficult as well, particularly because the serpent is Satan.

The argument,  therefore, has been that animals are not morally culpable because they are not moral agents. Because that is the case, if they died due to sin, it was through not fault of their own. This would make God seem unjust if He caused animal death due to Adam’s fall. I’ve noted that YECs can avoid this injustice, but only by dropping the argument that Ham and others use against other positions.

There have been some interesting reactions to this article, and some of them are confusing my argument. What I’d like to note is this post is written from a perspective inside of YEC. In other words, I’m using the presuppositions of YEC against itself. What I’m not doing is personally saying that the death of animals is a morally impermissible state of affairs. What I am doing is saying that, on YEC, they assert it is morally impermissible, and so they have to accept the consequences of that argument.

Finally, I’d like to note that even if readers are unconvinced by this argument, they still must contend with other theological problems with YEC. For example, the notion that YEC makes God a deceiver. For this and other reasons I am no longer a YEC.

But what of the argument itself from YEC? What of the argument that there cannot be death before the fall? I urge readers to check out the following post over at geocreationism: Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical perspective. See also Luke Nix’s phenomenal post on the topic, “Cartoons, Animal Death, and Theology.”
Image Credit- http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:R%C3%B8d_r%C3%A6v_(Vulpes_vulpes).jpg image by Malene

Sources

Answers in Genesis, “Biblically, Could Death Have Existed Before Sin?” – http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/03/02/satan-the-fall-good-evil-could-death-exist-before-sin

Ken Ham, The New Answers Book 1 (Green Forest, Arizona: Answers in Genesis, Master Books, 2006).

SDG.

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