Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Appearance of age again

This is getting very, very interesting. AIG has this ongoing series by Tommy Mitchell on "Arguments Christians shouldn't use." So far the series has been pretty forgettable, covering generally non-controversial subjects or arguments that are so bad that anyone can see that they're silly.

Yesterday's argument Christians should not use? Creation with the appearance of age. It's kind of a weird article though, since it takes Lisle's approach: "appearance of age" is based on extrapolations ("fallible dating methods"), but if you weren't there to see the origin you can't be sure God didn't just make it look like that. I think that's a good summary.

Anyway, I just thought it was amusing that Don DeYoung just published an endorsement of appearance of age in Journal of Creation while AIG publishes this repudiation of the very idea that something can have an appearance of age.

Meanwhile, I got an email from a reader concerned that my blunt criticisms of Lisle and DeYoung could be unnecessarily divisive. That's entirely possible (perhaps even probable), but only if you interpret my comments as criticism. From my reading of Lisle and DeYoung, they seem quite open about the fact that their explanations are not scientific. Indeed, they both seem to think this is an advantage. Wrote Lisle:
The focus of this paper is to discern what convention the Bible is using, not which convention should be used in introductory physics textbooks. Indeed, the Bible does not always select the convention that modern physicists would prefer. ... even if the conventionality thesis were refuted, this objection still fails because the issue is not "which convention does nature prefer?" but rather "which convention does the Bible use?"
If I read that correctly, Lisle's argument for ASC is primarily a biblical one. He seems unconcerned with whether or not this makes sense to a physicist.

In listing the advantages of adopting appearance of age, DeYoung wrote,
... in explaining the observation of distant starlight, the mature creation view does not require the employment of abstract physics concepts including generally relativity [sic], cosmology and gravity theory. Such disciplines are incomplete and may be modified in the future.
If I read that correctly, DeYoung seems to have a low view of what science can do for us and prefers to base his solution to the starlight problem on a logical possibility that is essentially impervious to testing and therefore irrefutable.

On the other hand, I can see how my description of these ideas as "ad hoc" and "nonscientific" would be construed as criticism. It certainly sounds bad, but I think the best anyone could object to is my choice of words. I think I've accurately summarized what these men have written, and they're certainly capable of writing me to correct any inaccuracies. Aside from my understandable irritation at being mocked in a cartoon, I think I've treated the proposals of both individuals reasonably and fairly.

Here's my real take on the whole ASC/appearance of age issue: I think where I disagree with both Lisle and DeYoung is my view of science. I think I have a higher view of science than they do. For example, where Lisle seems to think it's irrational to speak of "appearance of age," I think "appearance of age" is a perfectly reasonable extrapolation. Not always correct of course, but not unreasonable. Lisle thinks, "We could only know for certain the age of a star if we had a written record of the time of its creation." That's true enough, but since when does science deal in absolute certainties? I think being 95% sure of the universe's extrapolated age is good enough to reasonably wonder why it looks so old. Likewise with DeYoung, I don't think that proposing creationist cosmogonies like Humphreys's white hole cosmogony or Hartnett's 5D universe is necessarily a detriment, especially when these theories attempt to explain phenomena beyond just starlight travel time (like colliding galaxies).

If you want to go with nonscientific explanations like ASC or appearance of age, that's fine. I can't stop you. But if you do, you have to understand that you're not going with a scientific explanation.  So you can't expect scientists like me to give those explanations much attention. As I said in a previous post,
Science deals with the world of real things, not just logical possibilities. Science is concerned with observing patterns in data and trying to explain them. Galaxies are patterns in the distribution of stars. They are the exact kinds of patterns that scientists love to try to explain. The fun thing about logic is that it helps us narrow down possible theories, but only reference to the actual data can help us figure out which of the logically possible theories is most likely to be correct.
Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.