Are young earth creationism and dispensationalist eschatology to blame for our conspiracy theory problem?

"Caught between the (semi) proverbial rock of Ham and the hard place of LaHaye, many Christians–especially American fundamentalists and evangelicals–have been progressively conditioned to resort to conspiracy as an explanatory heuristic" - Conciliar Post

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I thought I was seeing a few things along those lines, then came across this essay.

Of course, he doesn't interact at all with wether YEC and a futurist-linear reading of Revelation are true. And that kind of matters a little bit. (understatement)

But that aside, I think he's partly on to something. Let's acknowledge that in all things human there are tradeoffs. With firm embracing of some truths, there's the tradeoff of a set of weaknesses--a vulnerability to not recognize other truths. It happens all the time. In this case, our belief that science has gotten some things profoundly wrong (mostly by not staying in its lane), and our belief that the world will be reordered in a much more conspicuously evil way before Christ's return do make us vulnerable to a couple of things: a) Being overly dismissive of science, empirical truth, observation and logic and facts in general; and b) Being overly quick to see secret sinister things going on all over the place whenever lots of change happens. 

So, yeah, there's a smug dismissal of YEC and dispensationalism there. That's not entirely unearned. But, more importatnly, I think he's identified some genuine temptations that far too many in our circles have already fallen to.

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.

dgszweda's picture

I would argue the author's conclusions a bit different.  I think what has driven much of this is that science has for the last 30-40 years at a growing rate that Science=Truth.  Those who resist Science are diluted.  The challenge is that science changes.  What we knew about the virus in February before the outbreak and what we know at the end of the main pandemic phase is very different.  If Science was really truth, it wouldn't have changed.  In addition, there is not one single "message" from Science.  Even the CDC, WHO and other agencies had different opinions, ideas...  So people said, if Science doesn't really know what it is doing, why am I going to restructure my whole life for the Science idea of the week (i.e. one week masks, next week shutown, the next week no masks....)

G. N. Barkman's picture

David hits the bulls eye.  When Scripture is rejected, there remains no sure source of truth.  Science has been elevated to that pinnacle by many, but the changing declarations of science breeds skepticism.  Science fanatics double down and label questioners "science deniers."  In so doing, they yank the rug out from under their own authority.  If the views of science are the closest we can come to truth, we're in trouble, and most people realize that.  How much better to return science to its proper sphere as a handmaiden in the endeavor to better understand the physical universe, not the god of the universe.

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It looks to me like the article references science, not "popular misunderstandings under the label of science," which is a different thing.

But there's a pretty widespread gap in how many view science: not understanding or factoring in how humans work with probabilities. We tend to look at a source of truth-claims and think "either A is definitely true or the source is wrong." But real science (vs. popular "the science" claims) is always a probability claim.

That doesn't make it useless or suspicious. It's like weather forecasting. We get that predicting the weather is complicated and meteorologists are often wrong. Weather is one area where the reality of how science works seems to reach popular consciousness pretty well. We know "the weatherman" could be wrong, but we still find the information useful, because we understand that it's a probability.

So "science" doesn't change as much as it may seem to. It's nearly always--after stripping away the hype--making a probability claim. If the claim is "there's a 80% chance of rain today" and it doesn't rain, we don't usually say "science was wrong." It wouldn't be fair if we did, because "science" said rain was probable not certain.

Sometimes the probability is so high, it's not meaningfully different from "certain" in everyday usefulness. And sometimes there's a consensus among scientists that something is extremely probable and it turns out to be wrong. That doesn't make it any more suspicious or useless than meteorology.

I think, too, from our point of view as lovers of theology, we need to recognize something. There's a nexus where science and theology meet. It's unavoidable. As an example, Scripture tells fathers not to provoke their children to wrath. But Scripture nowhere tells us what a child is. We know this from observation and deduction as well as from intuition. Both are truth-sources outside of Scripture and Scripture is dependent on those outside sources to communicate to us. This is inherent in communication by means of a book and reading... or any communication using words, I would think.

So, it's ultimately incoherent for Christians to take a dim view of observation and reasoning. Without them, we don't have Scripture either in any useful sense--and science is just doing observation and reasoning in a disciplined and intentional way to try to learn something.

The "conspiracy heuristic," as the author put it, requires maintaining this gap in how Scripture builds on non-Scriptural truth to tell us what it tells us. At bottom, conspiracy thinking is anti-intellectualism + presumed hostility to all that is not overtly Christian (and a few other things in the mix). That second piece is another large topic.

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.

Mark_Smith's picture

"Archaeology (science) is about fact... if you want truth, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is down the hall."

-Prof. Indiana Jones

 

We need to disconnect "truth" from science. Science is about what we can measure, observe, and predict. Truth is something more abstract that is the realm of philosophy and religion, especially the Bible and God's revelation.

Mark_Smith's picture

Facts are things that are directly observable. They require no "faith." Examples (these are going to make most of you mad at me):

-The universe is 13.8 billion years old (measured observation by multiple independent methods... not opinion... its a fact)
-The universe is expanding (once again, measured fact. It's an observation)
-The Earth is 4.543 billion years old (once again, this requires no faith. It is a measured fact)
-Dinosaurs existed millions of years ago (measured fact...the evidence is so overwhelming it is preposterous to deny it)
-Continents move around over geologic time periods (measured fact)
.
.
.

dgszweda's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Facts are things that are directly observable. They require no "faith." Examples (these are going to make most of you mad at me):

-The universe is 13.8 billion years old (measured observation by multiple independent methods... not opinion... its a fact)

I will just take one of these.  Herein lies the problem.  It is not fact.  It is observed today and with the science that we have today to be about 13.77 Billion years old.  But if we go along the path of how science got here we notice that in the 1920's it was measured to be about 1.8 Billion years old.    In the 1950's about 4.55 Billion years old.  In the 1990's it was thought to be between 12-13 Billion years.  Than in the late 1990's it was thought to be 13.80 Billion years old.  Than down to 13.77 Billion years old in the 2000's.  Some new estimates are pointing it to be between 12.5B and 13B years old (https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/universe-may-be-billion-years-young...).

The truth is, that as science matures, we gather more data, we understand data better, we obtain more observations, it changes what we think and how we calculate things.  All of these measurements and calculations are further based on the assumptoins that we are in an expanding universe and that there was a Big Bang.  It is also limited by things like the Planck constant.  We may find out that the universe is actually bigger than what we can currently observed.  We don't even truly know what Dark Matter and Dark Energy are....

So when people say that "this is fact" and then new research comes out from someone like Adam Reiss a Nobel Laureate that questions some assumptions, we need to scratch our heads and be careful what we call "fact".  If it was truly fact, than there could absolutely be no possibility for anyone questioning it.  And if anyone questioned it, they should be shunned.  Which is the very opposite of the essence of science.

This article sums it up best (https://phys.org/news/2019-09-universe-billion-years-younger.html).

"It is difficult to be certain of your conclusions if you use a ruler that you don't fully understand," Loeb said in an email.

There is more uncertainty to the age of the universe than certainty at this point.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Our friend Mark illustrates the problem beautifully.  Changing "facts" of science are pronounced irrefutable, and those who question them are considered science deniers.  Scientists demand immunity from questioning, banishing dissenters, including scientists with a differing minority opinion, to public discourse jail.  All the while, the declared "facts" are not facts at all.  They are simply the most recent majority conclusions, which differ from yesterday, and will almost certainly change tomorrow.  If scientists can't distinguish between actual "facts" and tentative conclusions, please forgive the general public for believing that many so called scientific facts are less than factual.  To regain credibility, scientists should stop bullying the public with declarations of certainty, and take their rightful place as students who endeavor to understand our physical universe and who humbly offer their most recent unsettled conclusions.

G. N. Barkman

Mark_Smith's picture

I am not going to get into an argument with you, but what you wrote is silly. You can't compare the 1920s number to todays for age and say, see, science changes. We know why Hubble's age was too young. He knew it was too young at the time! He only had the red-shift to a dozen galaxies to measure his Hubble constant!! But he was faithful to sticking to what he could measure... Today we have millions of red-shifts...

Your second article is simply about one method to measure age. There are many methods. Some are susceptible to large errors. The article says one age measurement only used 2 observations of gravitational lensing. Yeah... of course it had large error bars! Other papers used dozens of gravitational lenses and got a result consistent with several other measurements of age. Taken as a whole, we know the age to be 13.8-ish billion years. The point is it is not a few thousand. Dancing around the 13 billion number does not show that science is not right. The point is the Big Bang happened as observed. Its an observation. The FACT as I write is the mechanism for the universe's expansion (the Big Bang) and the approximate age (13.8 billion years).

So whatever model you come up for the universe had better take those observations into account. That is my point. You can't say scientists disagree as to whether the age is 13.8 or 13.77 billion years, so I'm going with 7,000.

Also, why would Planck's constant change due to universe size? We measure it right here all the time... on Earth.

Mark_Smith's picture

is a measurement or observation. It is not the explanation or hypothesis or theory. Just the mere measurement.

dgszweda's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

So whatever model you come up for the universe had better take those observations into account. That is my point. You can't say scientists disagree as to whether the age is 13.8 or 13.77 billion years, so I'm going with 7,000.

I am not arguing about 7,000.  I am arguing about you stating, that is is a "fact" that it is 13.8 Billion years old.  And it is not a "fact".  It is what we know today.  If you want to believe that it is 13.8 Billion years old and that in the next 2,000 to 5,000 years that the human race will never develop changes to Quantum mechanics or that new observations are not obtained through space telescopes or other scenarios, that is fine.  I don't view it as an immovable fact.  We can't even stay stable on the age in the last 90 years.  I don't view it as the same level of fact as "God is faithful".  That statement, I do view as an unmovable fact that not only exists within our view of age and the universe, but it transcends all of eternity and is independent of any new data or discovery.  It stands and it will stand foreever.

AndyE's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

is a measurement or observation. It is not the explanation or hypothesis or theory. Just the mere measurement.

You didn't measure the age of the universe. You measured something else and then claimed that means the universe must be so many years old.

The fact or data point is the result of measurement you took.  No objections to those types of fact statements.  

Mark_Smith's picture

Yes, in a way. If our opinions and biases lead us to reject authority in general, then that will spill over into politics as well. If we reject plain observation and support irrational conclusions based on our a priori beliefs alone, we will be susceptible to conspiracies.

Belief in dispensationalism or YEC need not lead to conspiracy thinking, but all too often the people that hold to both of those reject rational thinking. For example, flat eartherism is increasing, especially among the YEC crowd. I suspect the author used "dispensationalism" to mean belief in a literal end-times with rapture, etc. rather than meaning a separation between the church and Israel.

Mark_Smith's picture

dgszweda wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

So whatever model you come up for the universe had better take those observations into account. That is my point. You can't say scientists disagree as to whether the age is 13.8 or 13.77 billion years, so I'm going with 7,000.

 

 

I am not arguing about 7,000.  I am arguing about you stating, that is is a "fact" that it is 13.8 Billion years old.  And it is not a "fact".  It is what we know today.  If you want to believe that it is 13.8 Billion years old and that in the next 2,000 to 5,000 years that the human race will never develop changes to Quantum mechanics or that new observations are not obtained through space telescopes or other scenarios, that is fine.  I don't view it as an immovable fact.  We can't even stay stable on the age in the last 90 years.  I don't view it as the same level of fact as "God is faithful".  That statement, I do view as an unmovable fact that not only exists within our view of age and the universe, but it transcends all of eternity and is independent of any new data or discovery.  It stands and it will stand foreever.

fact does not mean "true." Fact means observation or measurement.

Mark_Smith's picture

AndyE wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

is a measurement or observation. It is not the explanation or hypothesis or theory. Just the mere measurement.

 

 

You didn't measure the age of the universe. You measured something else and then claimed that means the universe must be so many years old.

The fact or data point is the result of measurement you took.  No objections to those types of fact statements.  

A fact is a measurement in science. For example, I measure the distance to the Moon reflectors left by Apollo astronauts by way of the travel time of light.

But what is your point? I suspect it is to weaken the "billions" claim in preference of a smaller number. Am I correct?

Mark_Smith's picture

Measure the age of the largest surviving stars in a globular cluster. We know the Sun is about 4.6 billion years old. That comes from measuring the age of meteorites in the solar system. The Sun must be slightly older than the oldest of them... That is done by radiometric dating (which you probably reject). Based on the fuel burn rate of the present Sun, and using models of nuclear fusion, we can reasonably estimate the lifetime of the Sun to be 10 billion years. Well, the less massive the star, the longer it lives. So stars smaller than the Sun live longer. More massive stars live shorter lives.

 

Globular clusters are large collections of hundreds of thousands or millions of stars that form at about the same time as the host galaxy. We can measure the Spectral class and Luminosity of all the stars in a cluster and plot that on an H-R Diagram. Clusters reveal their age by when stars "turn off" the main sequence and start dying. All bigger stars would have died already since they ran out of fuel. See the "Globular Cluster" wikipedia page to see the diagram.

 

If you survey the globular clusters we can make this measurement to, you get that stars of about 0.7 solar masses are the largest left in clusters (other than blue stragglers which I add for completeness... but they come from another mechanism). This correlates to an age of somewhere between 11-17 billion years. Not the most precise measurement, but one completely separate from Hubble's Law, expansion, and the like. Star age betrays the universe's age. Billions brothers!

AndyE's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

A fact is a measurement in science. For example, I measure the distance to the Moon reflectors left by Apollo astronauts by way of the travel time of light.

But what is your point? I suspect it is to weaken the "billions" claim in preference of a smaller number. Am I correct?

Here is what you said:

Mark Smith wrote:
Facts are things that are directly observable. They require no "faith." Examples (these are going to make most of you mad at me):

-The universe is 13.8 billion years old (measured observation by multiple independent methods... not opinion... its a fact)

You made a measured observation regarding something directly observable then applied that to something else that is not directly observable and called it a fact.  Facts are things no one should be able to argue with.  If you want to say the astronomical age of the universe, meaning the age determined by a certain set of astronomical-related measurements/calculations given current scientific understanding, is 13.8 billion years, that is OK.  The astronomical age may or may not be equal to the actual age, though.

Mark_Smith's picture

AndyE wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

A fact is a measurement in science. For example, I measure the distance to the Moon reflectors left by Apollo astronauts by way of the travel time of light.

But what is your point? I suspect it is to weaken the "billions" claim in preference of a smaller number. Am I correct?

 

 

Here is what you said:

 

Mark Smith wrote:
Facts are things that are directly observable. They require no "faith." Examples (these are going to make most of you mad at me):

 

-The universe is 13.8 billion years old (measured observation by multiple independent methods... not opinion... its a fact)

 

You made a measured observation regarding something directly observable then applied that to something else that is not directly observable and called it a fact.  Facts are things no one should be able to argue with.  If you want to say the astronomical age of the universe, meaning the age determined by a certain set of astronomical-related measurements/calculations given current scientific understanding, is 13.8 billion years, that is OK.  The astronomical age may or may not be equal to the actual age, though.

And why do you think that, ie that there is a difference between "actual" age and "astronomical age" , whatever that made up thing is?

AndyE's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

And why do you think that, ie that there is a difference between "actual" age and "astronomical age" , whatever that made up thing is?

  The Bible says God made everything 6 days. That is why.

Mark_Smith's picture

AndyE wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

 

And why do you think that, ie that there is a difference between "actual" age and "astronomical age" , whatever that made up thing is?

 

  The Bible says God made everything 6 days. That is why.

 

And there is no way your interpretation of that is wrong? No other possibility?

Example: Do you know Hebrew, brother? If so please explain the first word of the Bible,   בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית

It is often translated as "in the beginning." Ok, reshit is beginning. B is in. What is "the" in Hebrew? "He" correct. When Be and He go together, what is the verbs for that combination? I'll leave that as an exercise for the student. Then look at what this word has... is the He subsummed into Be?

The point is, "in the beginning" is could possibly be more properly translated as something "during the beginning" or "at the beginning". That is to say the reference is to a general point in time, the beginning of things, rather than a specific moment everything happened to start from.

 

 

AndyE's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

The point is, "in the beginning" is could possibly be more properly translated as something "during the beginning" or "at the beginning". That is to say the reference is to a general point in time, the beginning of things, rather than a specific moment everything happened to start from.

It's not just Gen 1, we also have a pretty clear statement in Exodus 20:11, "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

I don't know any legitimate way to explain away the clear statement here.

T Howard's picture

If your argument rests on complex rules of Hebrew grammar (e.g. compensatory lengthening, propretonic reduction, virtual doubling, etc.), you've already lost the argument.

dgszweda's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

And why do you think that, ie that there is a difference between "actual" age and "astronomical age" , whatever that made up thing is?

It is because the age is based off of the Hubble Constant.  The Hubble constant, which is not really a constant, is re-evaluated as new data and understanding is understood.  It is not simply based off of measurements that are facts.  The Hubble parameter is also highly susceptible to the models that we use, such as different gravitational models.   I have spent way too many hours in college and in my professional life deriving all sorts of equations and completing calculations off of this.  To just state that 13.8B is fact is being disingenious to other scientists and published scholars who have equally compelling evidence and measurements for shifts in the Hubble constant.

T Howard's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Example: Do you know Hebrew, brother? If so please explain the first word of the Bible,   בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית

It is often translated as "in the beginning." Ok, reshit is beginning. B is in. What is "the" in Hebrew? "He" correct. When Be and He go together, what is the verbs for that combination? I'll leave that as an exercise for the student. Then look at what this word has... is the He subsummed into Be?

FWIW, I could be wrong, but I don't see the Hebrew definite article with this word. There is an inseparable preposition, but there is no change of the tsere vowel under the guttural resh or a change in the shewa under the bet. With a definite article and guttural along with a preposition, there should be some vowel changes. There are none.

dgszweda's picture

AndyE wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

 

And why do you think that, ie that there is a difference between "actual" age and "astronomical age" , whatever that made up thing is?

 

  The Bible says God made everything 6 days. That is why.

 

As a scientist, who both studied and worked in this space, I literally don't have an issue with this at all.  I am 100% fine with saying that the earth has a cosmological age of 13.8B year, and all evidence points to this, and in order for my calculations to work, I need to take the same assumptions and leverage those.  All the while saying that my faith is rooted in a miraculous event that took place outside of science and natural events that created the universe in 6 literal 24 hour days and that the age of the universe according to my faith is most likely considerably younger than 13.8B years.  I don't feel the need to resolve the tension here.  I don't feel the need to scientifically resolve this.  I also don't feel the need to Scripturally resolve this.  I believe that Scripture is clear that my faith creates a tension between those things that are not seen with those things that are seen.  It also doesn't force me to come up with crazy notions on how to make both things the same and it doesn't force me down conspiracy rabbit holes.  I love science.  I believe in much of science and it is extremely important for our daily lives.  God gave us the ability to both study and use science to better ourselves.  People may think I am crazy because I don't argue either side of this, but I am comfortable in the faith that I rest in and the science that I use.

Mark_Smith's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Example: Do you know Hebrew, brother? If so please explain the first word of the Bible,   בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית

It is often translated as "in the beginning." Ok, reshit is beginning. B is in. What is "the" in Hebrew? "He" correct. When Be and He go together, what is the verbs for that combination? I'll leave that as an exercise for the student. Then look at what this word has... is the He subsummed into Be?

 

FWIW, I could be wrong, but I don't see the Hebrew definite article with this word. There is an inseparable preposition, but there is no change of the tsere vowel under the guttural resh or a change in the shewa under the bet. With a definite article and guttural along with a preposition, there should be some vowel changes. There are none.

exactly... no definite article!

Hence the phrase is more akin to "while beginning to make the universe..." rather than "In the beginning..." No specific start time is mentioned.

Mark_Smith's picture

T Howard wrote:

If your argument rests on complex rules of Hebrew grammar (e.g. compensatory lengthening, propretonic reduction, virtual doubling, etc.), you've already lost the argument.

I am asking are you so sure your interpretation is the only possible one... because you are banking everything on it. You throw reason out the door by rejecting sound scientific measurements in favor of your theological interpretation... are you so sure you are right?

Mark_Smith's picture

AndyE wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

The point is, "in the beginning" is could possibly be more properly translated as something "during the beginning" or "at the beginning". That is to say the reference is to a general point in time, the beginning of things, rather than a specific moment everything happened to start from.

 

It's not just Gen 1, we also have a pretty clear statement in Exodus 20:11, "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

 

I don't know any legitimate way to explain away the clear statement here.

You presume the only interpretation that is valid is yours. Genesis 1 clearly shows a parallelism between the days 1-3 and 4-6. What is God communicating? 6 literal 24-hour days? Or the idea that he created the universe? If the latter how is Exodus 20:11 violated? BUt you know all of this. Its been argued for centuries...

Mark_Smith's picture

https://www.businessinsider.com/watch-scientists-big-reveal-maybe-photo-milky-way-black-hole-2022-5\

Image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy (25,000 ly away by the way) has just been released. Turns out the features they have measured so far conform exactly to the theory of General Relativity 100%. Einstein wins again! The universe is made up of spacetime... wow. Confirmed again.

Question: if our science is so bad we can't measure time how is all of this working?

T Howard's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:
exactly... no definite article!

Hence the phrase is more akin to "while beginning to make the universe..." rather than "In the beginning..." No specific start time is mentioned.

That's not how Hebrew (or Greek) works. There are other ways of communicating definiteness other than using the definite article. Hebrew has two other ways of expressing definiteness. Greek has other ways as well. JW's go to town on John 1:1 because the Geek doesn't have an article before theos. They believe that proves that Jesus is A God but not THE God. They don't understand Colwell's Rule.

That said, even if the Hebrew word rʾšyt is not definite, you have to consider the bet preposition and use the context to determine the meaning. In temporal phrases, such a construction specifies the beginning of a particular period (e.g. Deut 11:12, Jer. 26:1), and the context of Genesis 1 suggests it refers to the beginning of time itself.

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