Thoughts from My Visit to AiG’s Ark Encounter & Creation Museum

Those who have visited Answers in Genesis’ Ark Encounter or Creation Museum will have their own perspective on the experience and its value. I’ve just returned from my own first-time visit to both and have some observations and thoughts for those who haven’t yet made the pilgrimage.

Is it just a big entertainment business making a few people rich?

Revenue is an inherently tempting thing. Just getting a paycheck every couple of weeks brings hazards as well as blessings. One of the hazards is that as revenue increases, my life and work might become increasingly about revenue.

We’d be fools to think that Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis are invulnerable to that temptation. There are also signs that could be viewed as evidence that AiG is on that road.

The growth above is in addition to AiG’s already-expansive ventures into Sunday School, VBS, and homeschool curriculum.

Because of how evangelical ministry tends to drift, I had concerns about this before I went to Ark Encounter (Ark) and the Creation Museum (CM). Being there didn’t erase those concerns. I hope and pray that AiG won’t be sucked into the “more and more, and bigger and bigger, is better” trap that afflicts so many megachurches and other large ministries.

That said, I don’t believe that right now, AiG is just an evangelical entertainment biz, pandering to the lowest common denominator of evangelical thrill seekers and belief-validation seekers.

Some reasons why:

  • If you’re going to do infotainment at all, you should do it right.
  • Doing it right is expensive.
  • AiG is shooting for top notch quality, and usually achieving it.

Pretty much everything at Ark is top-notch and nearly everything at CM is also (Exception: The planetarium show on aliens is much in need of an update. The show on the scale of the universe more than makes up for it, though!).

Both sites—which are a good 40 minutes apart by freeway—are kept in excellent condition and surrounded by extremely beautiful gardens. Both are full of exhibits that are as good as any I’ve seen anywhere. I’m not a museum buff, but Ark & CM rival the best museums I’ve toured in visual appeal, clarity, variety and thoughtfulness of the exhibits.

I imagine it would be hard for passionate non-believers to get past that and appreciate the quality of the exhibits, but it’s probably not hard for Christians with different views on the events of Genesis to appreciate.

Are these sites effective apologetics or just preaching to the choir?

Multiple aspects of both Ark and CM surprised me—a few examples:

  • Though it has “theme park” like stuff on site (zip line, camel rides for kids, a VR show of some sort, etc.), the Ark itself is pretty much a museum housed inside an exhibit … a cool idea by any standard.
  • The love of Christ and the gospel pops up all over in all sorts of ways, both subtle and intentionally non-subtle. In places, the gospel is portrayed with extraordinary beauty and grace. I teared up a bit more than once.
  • The level of detail! Multiple times during our day there, my critical thinking circuits would go, “Hmmm, but what about this…?” only to later find that very question directly addressed. The evidence and reasoning in the answers is selective—it has to be—but AiG seems to have thought of all the questions.
  • With a few givens in place (e.g., “kinds,” no hibernation, cubit size), I found the project persuasive as a demonstration of one way Noah’s ark could have done the job literally as described in Genesis.
  • Tone: The tone is mostly educational, not polemical. I also saw less inappropriate dogmatism than I expected.

But are these sites effective apologetics? Several points on that.

  • Ark is definitely more infotainment-oriented than CM.
  • Both are clearly aimed at general audiences, not intellectual elites, though CM is a bit more toward that end of the scale.
  • Both are clearly aimed at declaring the whole gospel story and educating Christians about Genesis—not mainly equipping believers for debates with skeptics or winning over critics on intellectual grounds.
  • Ark is not presented as a “you can believe Genesis now that you’ve seen it” thing. It’s more of a “you can understand Genesis better now that you’ve seen it” thing.

If you go to learn, you won’t be disappointed. If you go hoping to use something there to win your agnostic or atheist friend to Christ—there’s good stuff for that also, but probably not in the “conversion by winning the debate” vein.

Could it be better in some ways?

You can always find ways to make something better.

Infotainment. The blending of “theme-parkiness” with “museuminess” involves some trade-offs. If you dial down the entertainment aspect, you reach fewer people, including some who would be drawn into more thoughtful engagement with the ideas. But the entertainment aspect feeds the skepticism of those who are approaching the big questions more intellectually and suspect the projects are just fun and games and money. I’d like to see CM become even less theme-parky, though it’s already noticeably less so than Ark.

Counterarguments. At multiple points in both Ark and CM, but especially CM, I was aware that there are alternate views and counterarguments against what AiG was presenting. I couldn’t recall what they were and thought the exhibits might be enhanced by acknowledging these more and maybe pointing inquirers to where they can dig deeper into those debates. For example, CM is emphatic that earth must be 6,000 years old because the genealogy in Genesis notes the ages of individuals when they died—so there can’t be gaps. The exhibit leaves it at that.

You can only say so much in exhibit format—and many of CM’s exhibits are already a lot of reading. So I sympathize. Still, maybe there’s a way to use tech to allow guests to tap a Dig Deeper icon and find out why, for example, some still see maybe tens of thousands of years in Genesis but still consider themselves young earth creationists.

Assumptions. Ark is extremely well imagined, and I use “imagined” intentionally. It’s full of detailed explanations of how waste disposal, food distribution, ventilation, water, and more may have been engineered to allow eight people to care for around 800 animals each. Some brilliant engineers had to work through all of that—which means Noah, his family, and whatever other resources he could access, would also have to have done a lot of brilliant engineering.

I don’t find that difficult to believe. There was plenty of time to design and test systems, find failure points, and design new ones, etc. Also, though “Noah built the ark,” we don’t have to believe he never hired anybody for design, materials, and labor.

But a huge portion of the project is built on the assumption that God didn’t simply put all the animals into hibernation. I’m aware of the counterargument that Genesis doesn’t mention hibernation, so we’re filling in gaps from our own thinking on that. But if you visit the Ark you can hardly help but realize Genesis also doesn’t mention intricate waste disposal, food distribution and water management systems! Any view that takes the flood and ark account as historical/factual has two choices:

  • Leave the details to God: “It’s not important to me how God made it all work.”
  • Imagine a great deal to theorize how it all could have been done.
A portion of a small animals exhibit from Ark…

A portion of a large animals exhibit at Ark …

Is it less biblical and theologically sound, or more presumptuous, to imagine hibernating animals, a smaller cubit, and a smaller ark that isn’t so thoroughly engineered? (AiG’s attitude is that maybe hibernation happened but it wasn’t necessary.)

One other fact that hit me during these visits is that the AiG concept of “kinds” (Gen. 6:20, 7:14) means they do believe in the evolution of species. They would strongly prefer not to say it that way, because they define “evolution” as the complete naturalistic, molecules-to-man package. But in AiG’s view, a “kind” is a broader category than a species, and we have far more species today than Noah had “kinds” in his day. That would mean that after the flood, specimens of each kind evolved into the many species we have today—by natural selection (see photo of CM exhibit).

Given the relationship of kinds to species and the role of natural selection, maybe we need to stop being so broadly negative about “biological evolution,” and learn more nuanced ways of communicating the differences and similarities between creationist and naturalist views of life on earth.

Should you go?

You don’t have to be convinced that AiG has all the details right to benefit from the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. At the very least, these projects are thought-provoking, interesting, and well integrated with the theology of God’s grand plan of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration (CM uses the “Seven C’s” of Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation).

Believers don’t need to see a full scale ark model to be firm in their faith in God and His Word. Ark and CM are not about that. They’re about learning and deepening understanding as well as viewing the world in a more God- and gospel-centered way.

I think you should go. Should you bring your agnostic or atheist friend? That depends on a lot of factors, but it could certainly be a route to some thoughtful conversations about the big questions of what life is, why we’re here, what’s gone wrong, and what it all means.

A small animal storage area from Ark …
The graphic novel style gospel exhibit at Ark …

(Photo credits: Me and my Pixel 5.)

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There are 86 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

One question that I didn't catch the answer to at CM (and haven't yet searched AiG for) is the curious fact that in Genesis 1 we have "evening[s]" and "morning[s]" and "day[s]" before there is a sun or a moon or, as far as we can tell, anything at all but the contents of earth and its atmosphere and "light" from an unknown source. The sun moon and stars arrive on day four (Gen 1:14-19).

So... I find it difficult to get very dogmatic about "24 hour days" when there isn't even rotation or orbit around anything yet. I've heard some kind of answer to this in the past, but I've forgotten it... and have not forgotten the question! I suspect I didn't find the answer satisfying.

As for Mark's objection about "things appearing to have happened that can't possibly have happened," I don't see how the sped up time idea fails to solve that problem.

On uniformity of phenomena/natural laws, etc., CM and AiG in general emphasize a distinction between the "observational" and the "historical." I think it's fair to say that they don't think it's valid to project present processes into the distant past. I wonder what they'd say though to this question: Why is distant past different from, say, yesterday or last year? How far back must one go before we should set aside the assumption of uniformity?   I don't want to slip into a fallacy on this point: the fallacy that if you can't define the boundary between A and B precisely, there is no such thing as B ("fallacy of the beard"). It's just a question I'm interested in.

On Greg's point that appearance of age seems unavoidable. We know from Einstein that the rate at which time passes is relative. If you're moving away from point A fast enough, time at point A passes much faster relative to you than it does for you (time dilation). Extreme gravity can have some odd effects on time as well.

So, how many hours passed on earth kind of depends on your point of view... or "inertial frame of reference" I guess. At the moment, I lean toward the idea that everything that appears to have happened, happened, and from a point of view, took as long as it appears to have taken. From another point view, it took an instant. Prior to Day 4, is there even a "universe" as we know it? Beyond the immediate area of the earth, what could an hour or a day possibly mean?

These things seem beyond my pay grade. Biggrin

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Joeb's picture

Anything other then young earth takes away from our God being Omnipotent.  It happened just as scripture says it did.  6 days.  End of story in my opinion.  
 

Aaron excellent review.   It even makes me want to go there.  Sounds interesting.  Maybe when my granddaughter gets older I'll go.  

G. N. Barkman's picture

I find Aaron's recent comments interesting.  He's doing some serious thinking, and I'm benefiting from what he said.  However, when it comes to apparent age, I'm not sure how his insights make a practical difference.  (Probably because I don't understand the issues sufficiently.)  In my simplistic way of thinking, apparent age refers to the way things appear to us on earth.  A tree, one day after it was created, would appear to us to be many years old because the only experience we have with trees mandates that it takes many years for a seed to mature into a full grown tree.  It appears old because our experiences with trees informs us that trees that look like this are several years old.  Unless informed by the Creator that He made fully formed trees instantly, we could only assume a several years process but we would be wrong.  Creation is unique.  It happened once and has not been repeated, nor can we replicate it today.  Our assumptions of uniformity lead us astray regarding the origin as well as the date of origination. 

The question of how far back we cross the line between uniformity and non-uniformity doesn't seem difficult to me.  Immediately after creation, uniformity "kicked in."  At the time of creation, uniformity did not apply.  The assumption that applying principles of uniformity can inform us regarding origins or elapsed time is skewed because everything was created originally mature and fully functioning.  It had manifestations of significant periods of elapsed time, but only because of our assumption of uniformity.  Acknowledging the impossibility of accurately measuring elapsed time given the divinely revealed fact of God's creative act is necessary to protect science from conclusions that are wrong because they are based upon a faulty assumption.  Science can study what is present.  It cannot tell us how the object of scientific examination originated or how long it took to arrive at its present state.  Obviously, plants and animals that can be presently observed from infancy to maturity can be accurately studied.  But no one can tell where the first plant or animal came from because no one was present to observe it when it first appeared.  The only one present at that time is also the One who created it.  What we know about origins must be received by faith in the revelation of the One who knows.  All efforts to understand origins apart from the Creator's revelation are impossible.

G. N. Barkman

Mark_Smith's picture

"As for Mark's objection about "things appearing to have happened that can't possibly have happened," I don't see how the sped up time idea fails to solve that problem."

The problem is one of science. "Sped up time" is NOT a scientific answer. There is no measurement whatsoever anywhere that time flows at different rates in the past, relativity aside, which is not what "sped up time" is. So, saying "time sped up" answers the objection, but there is not one shred of evidence for it. There is not one known way it could happen OTHER THAN A MIRACLE. Hence it is not a scientific answer. And that leads to my claim that a young universe, if real, means science cannot be done astronomically.

Also, my comments were about "Appearance of Age" rather than "Sped Up Time." Appearance of age is a real clunker, but I do not think claiming time flowed really fast for a few days helps at all either because there is no reason to accept other than trying to fit a particular biblical interpretation. So you can claim it all day long but until you find a physical reason for it you are not doing science...

Mark_Smith's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

In the appearance of age model, I am saying seeing dead stars is like seeing scars on Adam. They represent things that must have happened but could not have. That is deceptive. You got the basic idea.

 

Using this logic, wouldn't most miracles be inherently deceptive? When Jesus turned water into wine, and it seemed to the drinkers just like wine made with natural processes, was Jesus being deceptive?

 

You are not understanding my point. IF MIRACLES CAUSED the universe to be 6000 years old, but appear 13.6 billion years old, I am fine with that. BUT.... you cannot then claim to use science observed here on Earth to in any way understand out there... so you cannot measure distances for example beyond what geometry allows (about a few hundred light years) because everything else relies upon scientific processes which did not apply due to the miracle.

So if miracles caused a young universe, it costs something. That something is scientific knowledge.

Mark_Smith's picture

If God heals a person, that is a miracle. If God cause the Red Sea to part, that is a miracle, etc. But those are individual and unique cases that do not represent the whole. No one else has ever walked on water than Peter and Jesus.

Stars and the universe are different. If the universe is young, EVERY STAR is the direct product of a miracle. There were no regular births! Every photon from galaxy M81 is a direct result of a miracle. None of it was from a natural process. As a result you cannot "do science" on miracles by definition. It is utter nonsense to talk about HR Diagrams, T Tauri stars, Cepheid Variables, protostars, accretion disks forming to form solar systems, nuclear fusion, etc. if there is not time for physical processes to form stars and planets and galaxies.

See the difference?

Don Johnson's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Stars and the universe are different. If the universe is young, EVERY STAR is the direct product of a miracle. There were no regular births! Every photon from galaxy M81 is a direct result of a miracle. None of it was from a natural process. As a result you cannot "do science" on miracles by definition. It is utter nonsense to talk about HR Diagrams, T Tauri stars, Cepheid Variables, protostars, accretion disks forming to form solar systems, nuclear fusion, etc. if there is not time for physical processes to form stars and planets and galaxies.

See the difference?

Are theories about how stars are formed "science"? Or are they theories attempting to explain the data of one star compared to another star? Is it possible to explain the data in a different way? Yes.

How do you "do science"? You observe the natural phenomena, you record data about that phenomena, and you attempt to make conclusions based on the phenomena. Once you get into making conclusions, assuming your observation and data recording are accurate, you can go way off reality if your presuppositions are wrong.

The question is, are the biblical presuppositions the right ones or the evolutionary cosmologists?

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mark_Smith's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Stars and the universe are different. If the universe is young, EVERY STAR is the direct product of a miracle. There were no regular births! Every photon from galaxy M81 is a direct result of a miracle. None of it was from a natural process. As a result you cannot "do science" on miracles by definition. It is utter nonsense to talk about HR Diagrams, T Tauri stars, Cepheid Variables, protostars, accretion disks forming to form solar systems, nuclear fusion, etc. if there is not time for physical processes to form stars and planets and galaxies.

See the difference?

 

 

Are theories about how stars are formed "science"? Or are they theories attempting to explain the data of one star compared to another star? Is it possible to explain the data in a different way? Yes.

How do you "do science"? You observe the natural phenomena, you record data about that phenomena, and you attempt to make conclusions based on the phenomena. Once you get into making conclusions, assuming your observation and data recording are accurate, you can go way off reality if your presuppositions are wrong.

The question is, are the biblical presuppositions the right ones or the evolutionary cosmologists?

 

So you agree with me... if YEC is correct there is no science of astronomy.

Mark_Smith's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

  All efforts to understand origins apart from the Creator's revelation are impossible.

So that's another one agreeing with me. If YEC is correct, there is no such thing as the science of astronomy.

Don Johnson's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:

 

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Stars and the universe are different. If the universe is young, EVERY STAR is the direct product of a miracle. There were no regular births! Every photon from galaxy M81 is a direct result of a miracle. None of it was from a natural process. As a result you cannot "do science" on miracles by definition. It is utter nonsense to talk about HR Diagrams, T Tauri stars, Cepheid Variables, protostars, accretion disks forming to form solar systems, nuclear fusion, etc. if there is not time for physical processes to form stars and planets and galaxies.

See the difference?

 

 

Are theories about how stars are formed "science"? Or are they theories attempting to explain the data of one star compared to another star? Is it possible to explain the data in a different way? Yes.

How do you "do science"? You observe the natural phenomena, you record data about that phenomena, and you attempt to make conclusions based on the phenomena. Once you get into making conclusions, assuming your observation and data recording are accurate, you can go way off reality if your presuppositions are wrong.

The question is, are the biblical presuppositions the right ones or the evolutionary cosmologists?

 

 

 

So you agree with me... if YEC is correct there is no science of astronomy.

Not at all. I disagree with your definition of science.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mark_Smith's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

 

Don Johnson wrote:

 

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Stars and the universe are different. If the universe is young, EVERY STAR is the direct product of a miracle. There were no regular births! Every photon from galaxy M81 is a direct result of a miracle. None of it was from a natural process. As a result you cannot "do science" on miracles by definition. It is utter nonsense to talk about HR Diagrams, T Tauri stars, Cepheid Variables, protostars, accretion disks forming to form solar systems, nuclear fusion, etc. if there is not time for physical processes to form stars and planets and galaxies.

See the difference?

 

 

Are theories about how stars are formed "science"? Or are they theories attempting to explain the data of one star compared to another star? Is it possible to explain the data in a different way? Yes.

How do you "do science"? You observe the natural phenomena, you record data about that phenomena, and you attempt to make conclusions based on the phenomena. Once you get into making conclusions, assuming your observation and data recording are accurate, you can go way off reality if your presuppositions are wrong.

The question is, are the biblical presuppositions the right ones or the evolutionary cosmologists?

 

 

 

So you agree with me... if YEC is correct there is no science of astronomy.

 

 

Not at all. I disagree with your definition of science.

Then by all means, define science. Here's mine that I use to teach in classes as a scientist by the way with a PhD in physics:

"Science is a human endeavor that seeks to explain natural phenomena with natural explanations."

And, if you would, explain how you can measure the distance to something using light if the light did not actually travel from there to here using natural processes. If you disagree, show me the experiment that shows miracle produced light acts like regular light.

Ken S's picture

I'm no scientist, but what Mark says makes perfect sense to me. Miracles are miracles precisely because they don't follow scientific rules. So if the current observations in astronomy are part of the miracle of creation rather than processes that actually happened, then how do we do astronomy scientifically? It's not that we can't believe in YEC, but we should at least know exactly what we are giving up when we claim YEC.

It's one thing for Adam to be created as a thirty year old man for instance, but it's quite another for him to be created as a thirty year old man with cavities, scars, healed broken bones, and a life's backstory. Yet that's analogous to what we see when we observe astronomy, and it does seem inherently deceptive to me (although I also undertand that God has the right to do as he wishes). I've spent much of my life believing YEC, but am not as sure over the last few years. I don't spend much time thinking about it anymore because I don't think it's very important for my personally. I think it's more important for me to understand God as Creator when looking at Gen 1,2.

Don Johnson's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Not at all. I disagree with your definition of science.

 

 

Then by all means, define science. Here's mine that I use to teach in classes as a scientist by the way with a PhD in physics:

"Science is a human endeavor that seeks to explain natural phenomena with natural explanations."

And, if you would, explain how you can measure the distance to something using light if the light did not actually travel from there to here using natural processes. If you disagree, show me the experiment that shows miracle produced light acts like regular light.

Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster gives a different definition altogether, basically meaning the summation of knowledge in a particular field, for example, def. 3:

    3      a: knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method
    b: such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena

That's closer to what you mean, but not exactly. Here is the definition they give for "scientific method"

circa 1810: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses

That would be more or less what I mean by science.

Astronomy certainly exists because we can collect data about light sources in the sky (we call them stars, etc) and then formulate hypotheses about that data. The question is whether the current hypotheses are correct. I suspect not.

BTW, spare me the "I'm a physicist" appeal to expertise. You feel free to comment on many areas where you have no expertise, so don't use it as an argument when people comment in an area where you have some further training than others. 

As Christians, we have to start with worldview and authority. Wil we accept the biblical worldview or not? Your appeal to billions of years suggests not.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

Mark, if God accomplished creation in a way that precisely reflects apparent age, then there's no reason science can't be done on it. 

It is just a vastly more complicated version of, "Did Adam have a belly button?" I assume he did.

The Genesis description of Adam's actions says he could see. So I also assume his brain was fully developed such that he could see, even though the occipital and parietal lobes of the brain only work in adulthood because they developed in response to visual stimulation in early childhood.

Mark: If the universe is young, EVERY STAR is the direct product of a miracle. There were no regular births! Every photon from galaxy M81 is a direct result of a miracle. None of it was from a natural process.

But if, as is certainly the case if the universe is young, God's choice was to make EVERYTHING with apparent age, then everything is exactly as though it was old. And thus everything is measurable just as though it is old. 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Dan Miller wrote:

Mark, if God accomplished creation in a way that precisely reflects apparent age, then there's no reason science can't be done on it. 

[...]

But if, as is certainly the case if the universe is young, God's choice was to make EVERYTHING with apparent age, then everything is exactly as though it was old. And thus everything is measurable just as though it is old. 

I agree with you, but I think the reason he says that "science" can't be done on a young universe is because when the measurements seem to be accurate, and some theories are borne out by the results, the answer is "phony."  I.e., if we discover dead stars or a supernova that by its distance must have happened > 2 million years ago, it's "deception" if they have only been in existence a few thousand years.  I don't really agree with where that argument leads, but I can sort of understand it.  However, I don't know why it's more disturbing than the fact that science can't explain Adam being created as a mature human.  If his body shows signs of having grown to maturity, but he didn't actually grow, isn't that "deception" as well?  Is it impossible for us to understand biology now, if we don't understand what happened to Adam?

I think it's obvious that science can only tell us about processes that are functioning now, and it can't tell us what happened at the time of creation.  That means science is limited in its ability to describe time, which, as we know, God can change at will.  So what?  Our scientific understanding of time and relativity have been changed many times by new discoveries.  Even if science can't tell us how the universe came to be, or how old it is, using current processes can still give us accurate measurements of distance if God put everything in place with real distance, even if it was compressed time.  In other words science works just fine within the bounds of God's creation and the laws that make it function.  The fact that accurate time measurements far into the past might be outside this is hardly disturbing if we accept the creation account as given in Genesis.

Dave Barnhart

Ken S's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

As Christians, we have to start with worldview and authority. Wil we accept the biblical worldview or not? Your appeal to billions of years suggests not.

Don, are you saying that a biblical worldview requires one to believe in YEC? That if a person believes that Gen 1,2 is not necessarily teaching a literal six day creation then they do not have a biblical worldview?

Don Johnson's picture

Ken S wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:

 

As Christians, we have to start with worldview and authority. Wil we accept the biblical worldview or not? Your appeal to billions of years suggests not.

 

 

Don, are you saying that a biblical worldview requires one to believe in YEC? That if a person believes that Gen 1,2 is not necessarily teaching a literal six day creation then they do not have a biblical worldview?

Yes

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Couldn't keep up with the discussion, but a couple of thoughs.

@Greg on appearance of age. We may have some difficulty with the language here. I'm 55 and definitely have "an appearance of age." All the events that make me look 55 (older, some would say!) actually occurred. The 'appearance of age' idea many have struggled with is that God made things appear as though a bunch of stuff happened that didn't actually happen.

So, in addition to the objection that it's just too easy/too convenient, they see it as deceptive or at least not truth-conveying. I think this is where Mark is mostly unsatisfied with it: you can't study "an appearance with no real sequence of events behind it" and learn from it like we normally can with cause and effect events in the world (aka science).

Stars and the universe are different. If the universe is young, EVERY STAR is the direct product of a miracle. There were no regular births! Every photon from galaxy M81 is a direct result of a miracle. None of it was from a natural process. As a result you cannot "do science" on miracles by definition. 

I don't have a problem with saying that every star is the direct product of a miracle. It pretty much has to be. All of Genesis 1 is miracles. But there are different ways to do a miracle. For example, Jesus turned water to wine. He could have just had everyone's mugs and cups not run empty; He could have made everyone think they were drinking wine when it was just water or nothing at all; He could have made the hosts suddenly discover that the amphora they thought were empty were full again; He could have had them amazingly discover a bunch more they had somehow overlooked (because they didn't exist actually). All of these would be miracles. Instead went for a transformation of something existing. From the point of view of the hosts, I suppose, they 'discovered' someone had somehow put wine in the water container(s).

My point is this: in the miracle of man's creation, God could have said "let there be a man, and there was a man." Instead, God uses dirt and breathes into it. He could have said let there be trees but instead they spring up from the earth--rapidly.

So, the degree to which science can be done on aspects of that depends partly on what sort of miracle God did.

If an 'appearance of age' corresponds to all the actual events really occurring, you have normal cause and effect and you can study it. If you have 'appearance of age' that reflects events that are imagined but didn't 'happen,' you don't have something you can study in that way.

It's actually super interesting to read Genesis 1 and note all the process language that is there where God could have simply said "let there be land; let there be grass." But in places there is no process language. It's simply "and God created great sea creatures" etc. 

Mark says there is no evidence of sped up time, but I think that's an oversimplification. I was looking for the DVD I watched a few years ago and can't find it, but there was plenty of evidence in it that time could and probably would behave very differently in the initial moments of a universe expanding rapidly from a single point. We have some evidence of 'sped up time' in the earth "bringing forth" plants and possibly in "let the waters abound with..." and "and be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters and seas" in 1:22 and the "earth bring forth..." in 1:24 etc. 

There is a lot of process language if you look for it. Why is that language there if not to convey to us that in the miracle of creation, there was often process of some kind--and it's often process that is revealed as having happened very quickly, though we would normally not see things like the world filling with multiplying critters as a quick thing.

There isn't much process language there in reference to the stars, etc. Maybe none. None has caught my eye at this point. So that's significant.

So where does that leave astronomy?

Well, AiG, if memory serves, doesn't like to call explanations of origins "science." We can't observe these beginnings. 

But let's remember a couple of things about science...

  • It's always probabilistic, never truly absolute.
  • It's mostly inductive: lots of data points that support, to some extent, a generalization (hypothesis) (Then hypotheses are often used as premises to support other conclusions: that's the deductive part, but it's deduction built on induction)

I would argue that even if every single star is an individual miracle, 

a. there can be process in miracles

b. even an 'appearance without a real sequence of events' can be instructive

c. even with naturalistic assumptions, it's possible to hypothesize elements of process: cause and effect sequences, based on what we know about the properties of gases and gravity and what not in the present.

I'm not sure I can make myself clear on all this, and truthfully, I'm doing a lot of thinking out loud, but one more thing on point b, to try to explain.

A thing's appearance tells a story. Even if the story is imagined (as in a novel) vs. 'real' (the events in the story happened), you can learn things from the story. The plants and animals in Gen 1 seem to quickly develop, so their appearance seems to tell a 'real' story. Adam is made adult from the dirt. His appearance does not seem to tell a 'real' story of growing up. The stars seem to just suddenly be. So there doesn't seem to be evidence there of 'real' story in their appearance. But still story. 

I'm not saying creation is just a story!  I'll have to try to explain further at another time, but for now, just saying that in the sense of studying and learning, the story of astronomy doesn't have to be a 'real' story to still be a story.

But I think it is a real story... in some way.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Aaron, I think I understand what you are saying,  but like your last post, I don't see how it makes any practical difference.  If trees were created from seed to mature tree in a split second (speeding up time but taking it through all the "normal" processes), it has the same end result.  Principles of uniformity, which we depend upon to be able to "do science" today, did not apply during the "processes" of creation.  (Conceding that there may have been some processes instead of instantly mature items without any processes.)  The tree looks to us to be several years old because we apply principles of uniformity.  In fact, it is only one day old, because it was created the day before.  How can we possibly know that it is one day old?  Not by "doing science" as it is practiced today.  Only by taking the word of the Creator who reveals this supernatural miracle to us.  Are we willing to believe Him, or do we question His revelation to better conform to our present understanding of science?  "This tree can't be one day old.  It has all the evidence of a thirty year old tree."  Hmmm.  

Furthermore, I don't see how the "deception" argument applies at all.  The problem seems more like a problem of unbelief.  For those who refuse to accept what the Creator told us, the instantly mature state of creation looks deceptive.  "How dare you create a mountain that appears to be millions of years old!  Are you trying to deceive us?"  To those who believe what the Creator said, it looks exactly as it should.  "And The Lord saw that it was good."

G. N. Barkman

Dan Miller's picture

NGB: ...Principles of uniformity, which we depend upon to be able to "do science" today, did not apply during the "processes" of creation.  (Conceding that there may have been some processes instead of instantly mature items without any processes.) ...

In my view, the universe was created recently (6-10,000 yrs), but it was made with the appearance of age. So I would counter that the principles of uniformity did apply. 

The trees that Adam walked under- I think we should assume they were normal trees, including that they had rings like normal trees. Trees have a ring for each year of their lives, and aspects of each ring reflect the weather for each year. I would expect that those newly created trees had rings and the rings reflected years of weather that never happened. 

Similarly, weather patterns can be seen in polar ice, which has been drilled from many locations on earth. These patterns reflect many hundreds of thousands of years, each with varying weather. And, the vast majority of those years never actually happened. But God painstakingly made the world in accordance with uniformity and age. 

All of this is why I think a lot of what AIG does is misguided. There has been a lot of effort out into trying to see things that show the earth to be young. But God obviously made it to look old and I think it's best to accept that. 

Ken S's picture

The reason I am unsure of the appearance of age argument is that it is not just simple appearance of age that we see in the universe. Appearance of age would mean that Adam would be created being thirty years old. Sure, he would have the normal signs of aging that come with being thirty years old, but he wouldn't have a life backstory. It's quite another thing for him to appear thirty years old and also have healed broken bones, filled cavities, scars, tattoos, and a memory of a childhood. And that is what we see in the universe - not just appearance of age, but signs of past trauma and physical events that never happened if YEC is true. It seems odd to me that God would create the universe not just with age, but with a backstory that never happened. It's certainly possible that YEC is true and I'm perfectly willing to accept it if that is ultimately the best interpretation of Genesis. A simple reading of Genesis 1,2 does lead me toward YEC, but the "backstory" of the universe gives me pause and causes me to go back to Genesis and question whether I'm interpreting it properly.

I go back to Genesis 1,2 and re-investigate not because I'm unwilling to believe God, but because I want to make sure I'm as accurate as possible. General revelation seen in the universe causes me to think that it's possible I may have missed something, and I want to make sure I'm believing what the Bible is actually trying to teach. I think it's lacking in grace to suggest that questioning YEC is unbelief, refusing to accept what the Creator told us, or that I have an unBiblical worldview.

M. Osborne's picture

I've been thinking about Mark's points since before this particular thread. (This isn't the first thread to discuss these matters.) Mark, I do think the point you were laboring to make "clicked" with me on the last thread, namely, that appearance-of-age is one thing, but record-of-event-that-never-occurred is another (e.g. photons taking 40K years to percolate from the middle of the sun to us, in a young earth, would indicate nuclear fusion that didn't actually occur in the past).

I think if your definition of science precludes special revelation from the start, then yeah, you're going to wonder whether there's any "science" left in a young creation.

Some theses to consider:

  1. What we call "nature" the Bible calls "creation"; it also constitutes general revelation.
  2. God intends special revelation and general revelation to be received together; general revelation cannot be read in abstraction from special revelation; Adam in his integrity would not have read it so.
  3. What we call "natural laws" are likewise creation; God established not only the "stuff" of creation but the regular relationships among the particulars; we discover these relationships and speak of them in terms of causality, matter, energy, purpose, adaptedness, etc.
  4. The very reason these relationships are intelligible to us is that we are made in God's image; if we start with purely naturalist assumptions, it is impossible to make these concepts intelligible in anything but a pragmatic way.
  5. YEC convictions should not impose a particular reading of Genesis 1 & 2 a priori; "literal" doesn't mean "better" when the text intends figurative.
  6. If Genesis 1-2 teach a young earth, it does not undercut the blessing of studying creation; but it does radically alter your understanding of what it is you're studying though, which would be something like a coherent completed whole expressing a kind of ideal time.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

G. N. Barkman's picture

Dan, you and I must be using a different definition of "uniformity."  As I use the term, I am thinking more of processes than appearance.  Science assumes that the processes observable now can be extrapolated backwards indefinitely to determine how long it took for something presently observable to arrive at its present condition.  Trees with rings appear to be as old as the number of rings.  The only way rings occur is by the passing of years, right?  But if God created mature trees with rings, we have no way of knowing how old that tree may be.  We must accept by divine revelation that God made it yesterday.  My use of the term "uniformity" means that uniformitarian principles did not apply to original creation.  Uniformity only applies to the processes that now exist after creation.

G. N. Barkman

Mark_Smith's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Dan, you and I must be using a different definition of "uniformity."  As I use the term, I am thinking more of processes than appearance.  Science assumes that the processes observable now can be extrapolated backwards indefinitely to determine how long it took for something presently observable to arrive at its present condition.  Trees with rings appear to be as old as the number of rings.  The only way rings occur is by the passing of years, right?  But if God created mature trees with rings, we have no way of knowing how old that tree may be.  We must accept by divine revelation that God made it yesterday.  My use of the term "uniformity" means that uniformitarian principles did not apply to original creation.  Uniformity only applies to the processes that now exist after creation.

That's exactly right G.N. The cost of miracled things like trees and stars and galaxies is that their age is undeterminable by science. By "science" I mean exactly what you say, you take presently observed processes and extrapolate backwards. So, if God made Adam mature, then he looks like it but is not really that age. The same for a tree or a star. Since YEC relies on this mature creation, and has many examples of this (the rocks around us, stars, galaxies, etc.), the cost of YEC is indeterminism about how the broader universe works. It is simply a logical consequence.

The PROBLEM IS, using the assumptions of science, that we take things we can measure and extrapolate to other things, it looks like we can do a lot. The universe seems to follow the rules we measure here out there. So, we get a dilemma. Either our science is wrong (but we can measure things and observe them to follow what we expect. An example of this is how the Sun works. We know it is nuclear fusion of the proton-proton chain that makes it work by multiple measurements, yet pp fusion requires time no available to a YEC to work or even make sense) or our interpretation is off. I am starting to lean towards the latter as I get older. 

An example of this I have explained before. I spent a lot of COVID brushing up my Hebrew. I did the entire Hebrew sequence at biblingo.com (really good, try it if you have never seen it before) and even took a few video intensive classes. After all that I opened up Genesis 1 one day and started reading and almost jumped out of my chair... I had never noticed that bereshit does not have the vowels for "in the beginning" but is only "in beginning". The "he" has not been absorbed into the "be" as indicated by a vowel change. I suspect Genesis 1 is joined "in progress". We see God has already made something, and now starts to order it. The point of Genesis is not to show us how in a modern sense He created the universe, but that He did to bring order and structure.  

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Aaron,

Very good, helpful review.  I plan to visit the Ark Encounter one of these days. 

If you get a chance, check out the Creation Museum in Dallas, TX by the Institute of Creation Research.  I’d be interested to read your thoughts on it.  I enjoy their Acts & Facts magazine. 

I’m far from a cosmologist, etc.  But it is not difficult for me to conceive of God having the ability to create a “turn-key” universe in six days, or six minutes.  One that immediately accounts for distance, time, light travel, old planets, new planets… I don’t think God was limited into creating a planet or star, then having to wait a billion years for it to get to the right age.  The same goes with God creating a man, an oak tree… 

And,  the Law of Unintended consequences certainly does not apply to Him. 

David R. Brumbelow

Mark_Smith's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:

I’m far from a cosmologist, etc.  But it is not difficult for me to conceive of God having the ability to create a “turn-key” universe in six days, or six minutes.  One that immediately accounts for distance, time, light travel, old planets, new planets… I don’t think God was limited into creating a planet or star, then having to wait a billion years for it to get to the right age.  The same goes with God creating a man, an oak tree… 

David R. Brumbelow

You guys keep making my point but refusing to acknowledge it. Yes, God CAN make the universe in 6 days, BAM, appearing out of nothing while being 55 billion light years across with the light traveling from here to there...

BUT... the cost of that is you cannot measure a blasted thing in it! That's the point!

Larry's picture

Moderator

BUT... the cost of that is you cannot measure a blasted thing in it! That's the point!

This is what doesn't make sense to me. If God created it that way, then why can't you measure it? If God created a 30 foot oak tree, you can measure it just fine (though a "foot" would have been an anachronism to be sure). The measurement doesn't change just because it was created "in place" so to speak. So it seems your objection denies the very thing God stipulates.

To me, the difficulty is in claiming an appearance of age while at the same time claiming evidence for a young earth. I am not convinced that is an insurmountable conflict but I think some pass over it too easy. But I don't find this particular angle (unable to measure) convincing, at least as of yet. 

Mark_Smith's picture

Larry wrote:

BUT... the cost of that is you cannot measure a blasted thing in it! That's the point!

This is what doesn't make sense to me. If God created it that way, then why can't you measure it? If God created a 30 foot oak tree, you can measure it just fine (though a "foot" would have been an anachronism to be sure). The measurement doesn't change just because it was created "in place" so to speak. So it seems your objection denies the very thing God stipulates.

To me, the difficulty is in claiming an appearance of age while at the same time claiming evidence for a young earth. I am not convinced that is an insurmountable conflict but I think some pass over it too easy. But I don't find this particular angle (unable to measure) convincing, at least as of yet. 

Because any tree that was born after creation got rings from aging, whereas trees at creation got them gratis (for whatever reason God wanted to put them there for.) ALL STARS are like the gratis trees. You cannot measure anything about them because they were created the way they are. The light didn't really travel from there to here, it was created that way, so physics measurements don't apply. Measuring physical properties like distance and age assumes time elapsed for the process to occur. That is how we do it in a lab. If the time did not elapse, you cannot measure it.

How far away is the Andromeda Galaxy? I measure it assuming time allowed photons to propagate from there to here so that I can determine the distance. If the photons DID NOT travel from there to here, then all bets are off. I have no way to measure. Sure, I can try, but the answer will be meaningless because the assumption of the light traveling over time did not apply.

Let me ask you this. How old was a tree the day after creation? One day, or the age measured by looking at the rings?

Mark_Smith's picture

What lake were the fishes the people ate in one of Jesus' feeding miracles caught in?

If you ate one of the original fishes, you could determine that. But what about the copies? Its nonsense to ask what lake they came from! They are miracle fishes.

The universe out there is like the miracle fishes. You can determine nothing about them using physics because they weren't created following physical processes. They were miracled.

You could ask "how old were the fishes that Jesus created..." Its a ridiculous question. They have no age despite the fact that they looked like the "real" ones...

I don't know of any more obvious way to say this...

 

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

You cannot measure anything about them because they were created the way they are.

Mark, to me you are creating a straw man here. If God did what he said he did, we should expect that the light travel was appropriately created, i.e., that there are not gaps in the distance. The only way it wasn't is if God didn't do what he said he did. 

Remember, you aren't measure age. You are measuring distance. Yes, light travels over time, but it isn't required. 

 

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