It'll Take a Miracle to Save their "Science"
Dr. Kevin R. Henke
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In the past, people commonly invoked gods, fairies, demons, witches and other supernatural beings to explain plagues, storms, earthquakes and other phenomena in nature. As examples, the Hebrew God often used lightning as a weapon (Psalms 18:14, 144:6) and the Vikings believed that thunder was Thor's hammer. Since then, naturalists and scientists have demonstrated that thunder and lightning may be explained without involving the supernatural.
Although scientists cannot explain every event in nature, we do not give up hope of eventually finding natural explanations for nature's mysteries. Science has an excellent track record in developing coherent and non-miraculous descriptions of the history of the Earth and the properties of its materials. We've cured diseases, gone to the Moon, explained many of the properties of atoms and radiation and clarified the origin and evolution of the Earth's crust.
In contrast to science, the young-Earth creationists (YECs) of the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) Project readily admit that the supernatural is a necessary part of their "science." For example, Vardiman (2000, p. 5) openly confesses:
"The presence of supernatural 'process' during Creation is essential to our approach, however."
Humphreys (2000, p. 334) also acknowledges that young-Earth creationism depends on miracles and actually welcomes them. Concerning the decay rates of radioactive isotopes, Humphreys (2000, p. 367) states:
"It appears that Christ already has direct control of the nuclear (and other) forces, and furthermore that He is intimately involved with them. So even if we cannot follow all the links in the chain of causes back past a certain point, we can be confident that Jesus Christ is not only at the end of it, but at every link along the way. The point I am trying to make is that we should avoid the pitfall of insisting on completely naturalistic explanations for accelerated [radioactive] decay. Instead, my approach is to push the science we think we know as far as is reasonable, but remain ready at every point to see that God has intervened, and is intervening."
Of course, ANY mystery or problem can be superficially covered up with miracles. Anyone can yell: "God did it!" Whereas forensic scientists and paleontologists can often use remaining evidence to reasonably explain past unwitnessed events, YECs have no way of testing miracles or verifying the existence of supernatural beings. Young-Earth creationism is based on an unbelievable and unjustified faith, whereas the track record of the naturalistic approach of science is well-established, highly reliable and often imported into our daily lives to explain everything from crimes to missing car keys. Also, when faced with the most obvious errors and contradictions in their Biblical interpretations, YECs certainly have vivid imaginations and, by invoking miracles or other unlikely excuses, they can easily plaster over the most blatant inconsistencies in their Bible interpretations and their young-Earth mythology - errors and contradictions that YECs probably would not excuse if they were found in the Book of Mormon or the Koran.
In contrast to the unjustified promotion of miracles by YECs, science has repeatedly shown that the use of the supernatural as a "short-cut" to solve natural mysteries is premature, unnecessary and ultimately unsatisfying. Invoking miracles resolves nothing. Miracles are unproven. Many individuals view miracles as cheap copouts and invalid and lazy counterfeits to the persistence and hard work required by science. No credible person wants a "science" based on "God did it!" Science requires careful experimental designs without any interference from religion or politics, countless measurements and data verification, longsuffering and patience and deep thought to interpret the results and construct viable theories. Anyone can invoke miracles and make other excuses, but the true test of a patient researcher is the ability to solve problems with hard scientific work, and not rely on flimsy, ad hoc miracles as cheap shortcuts when the research becomes agonizing or threatens to encroach on popular religious beliefs.
The YEC approach to problem solving also would not produce satisfying results in any other aspect of our lives. That is, no one wants their garage mechanic to tell them that their car has demons, no one wants their doctors to "cure" diseases by chasing away the "evil spirits" with crosses and Psalms, no one wants their children to claim that the "boogie man" broke the expensive vase, and no one wants a defense lawyer telling them that satan and witchcraft killed the victim and not the defendant. In both science and our daily lives, we want elegant, useful and natural explanations and not superstitious, groundless, contrived, worn-out and miracle-based excuses that haven't been widely accepted since 1699.
By filling in the unexplained with supernatural "solutions," YECs are liberally relying on the infamous "god of the gaps" scenario. See The "God of The Gaps" Argument.
Time and time again science has demonstrated that the "god of the gaps" is premature. Yet, YECs continue to invoke miracles to explain mysteries and inspire the faithful (e.g., Gentry, 1988 and his haloes), only to have scientists later develop reasonable natural hypotheses (Odom and Rink, 1989). Once the knowledge gaps close, the supernatural explanations are exposed for what they really are: unnecessary and shoddy. Because of the long history of embarrassing lessons that have resulted from relying on miracles, it's not surprising that "god of the gaps" and other invocations of the supernatural are anathema to any good scientist and many theologians.
The YEC approach to science and the Bible is also clearly hypocritical. For YECs, any scientific claim, no matter how well verified, may be met with skepticism, especially if it deals with the origin and age of the Earth. However, the same level of skepticism is never applied to the Bible. No matter how juvenile the YECs' literal interpretations of the Bible may be, they are given an ad hoc exemption from any criticism. The Bible is simply assumed to be infallible and inerrant, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, see A List of Bible Contradictions and Capella's Guide to Atheism.
YECs are stuck in the circular fallacy of "Jesus 'said' that the Bible is infallible (Matthew 5:18) and Jesus' words are infallible because they're in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16)." The YECs' addiction to miracles and their approach to the Bible will certainly hinder their ability to effectively understand nature and deal with reality. That is, don't expect any YECs to successfully use their miracle-based "Flood geology" to find petroleum and ore deposits, see Why I left Young-earth Creationism.
Gentry, Robert V., 1988, Creation's Tiny Mystery, 2nd Edition, Earth Science Associates, Knoxville, TN.
Humphreys, D.R., 2000, "Accelerated Nuclear Decay: A Viable Hypothesis?" in Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, L. Vardiman, A.A. Snelling and E.F. Chaffin (eds.), Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon and Creation Research Society, St. Joseph, Mo.
Odom, A. Leroy and William J. Rink, "Giant Radiation-induced Color Halos in Quartz: Solution to a Riddle," Science, vol. 246, October, 1989, p. 107-109.
Vardiman, L., 2000, "Introduction," in Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, L. Vardiman, A.A. Snelling and E.F. Chaffin (eds.), Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon and Creation Research Society, St. Joseph, Mo.