Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Finding Darwin's God III

Miller, Ken. Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution.New York: Harper Perennial, 2007. ISBN: 978-0061233500.

Part I, Part II

In chapter 3, titled "God the Charlatan," Miller takes on those who would reject much of modern science that apparently contradicts the Bible. He labels these opponents of science "Young Earth Creationists" or YECs for short. 

Most of the chapter deals with the age of the earth.  YECs claim that the earth is young, less than 10,000 years or so. Miller argues for an old earth based on the findings of geologists.  He, though not himself a geologist, lays out the basic reasoning that geologists use to estimate that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.  The strongest and most consistent method for dating the earth is a process called radiometric dating. While not belaboring the point (since I am in no way a geologist), the basics of radiometric dating are as follows: there are certain radioactive isotopes such as Carbon 14, Uranium 235, Potassium 40, and Rubidium 87 (among others) that are unstable and decay into other stable elements at a constant rate. A half life is the time that it takes for half of the unstable "parent" element to decay into its stable "daughter" element.  Because this rate is constant, this acts like a radioactive stopwatch that can accurately measure the time of the formation of that rock that contains the parent and daughter elements.  With half lives of up to 48 billion years, this method has been able to on numerous occasions date the formation of the earth to approximately 4.5 billion years old. 

YECs have had some quick comebacks and objections to this method of dating the earth, such as noting the assumptions that are present (e.g., the original chemical composition of the rock, the assumption of a constant rate of decay). Yet, Miller notes that even the YECs are admitting the accuracy of the method.  Miller quotes from the book The Genesis Flood, a YEC book, as follows: 
We reply, however, that the Biblical outline of earth history, with the geologic framework provided thereby, would lead us to postulate exactly this state of the radioactivity evidence.  We would expect radiogenic minerals to indicate very large ages and we would expect different elements in the same mineral, or different minerals in the same formation to agree with each other (p. 77).
Basically, the YECs do not deny the evidence, they just have a different explanation.  Basically, they argue that God created the earth ~10,000 years ago with "apparent age." In short, God created the earth to look 4.5 billion years old when in fact it was quite young. This reasoning holds for stars as well, that read as being billions of light years away.  The light from these stars did not in fact travel for billions of years, but instead, the light was created as already on its way. This is what has lead Miller to title this chapter "God the Charlatan." Here we get into theology.  If God created the world to look old, even if it is in fact quite young, then God is a liar, a cheat, and a fraud.  By trying to defend YEC, the YECs have in fact said profound and disturbing things about God. Miller ends his chapter this way:
What saddens me is the view of the creator that many people find what they believe to be divine revelation preferable to scientific knowledge. In order to defend God against the challenge they see from evolution, they have had to make Him into a schemer, a trickster, even a charlatan.  Their version of God is one who intentionally plants misleading clues beneath out feet and in the heavens themselves (p. 80).

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