Young earth creation science is out of the front page, with the Dover decision on its way into the history books alongside the Scopes trial. But creationism is still the view of 45 percent of Americans; and with that many supporters, every time any school board discusses science standards advocates for and against evolution will come out of the woodwork.
The argument against creation science is usually that it's not science, it's religion, philosophy, theology. Whatever it is, it isn't science.
The New York Times took a look at a group of young earth creationists who are trying to change that. In Rock of Ages, Ages of Rock author Hanna Rosin (who has a chapter on young earth creationism in her book God's Harvard) visits the First Conference on Creation Geology. (Full disclosure: the conference was held at Cedarville University, my alma mater.)
Creationist geologists are now numerous enough to fill a large meeting room and well educated enough to know that in rejecting the geologic timeline they are also essentially taking on the central tenets of the field. Any "evidence" presented at the conference pointing to a young earth would be no more convincing than voodoo or alchemy to mainstream geologists, who have used various radiometric-dating methods to establish that the earth is 4.6 billion years old. But the participants in the conference insist that their approach is scientifically valid. "We're past the point of being critical of evolutionists," Whitmore told me. "We're trying to go out and make new discoveries and actually do science."
Obviously, the 3,300-word article is skeptical of the idea that scientists could believe in creation as described in Genesis as well as science. Perhaps the most telling example of the compartmentalized mind these scientists with Ph.D.s from major research universities need to have is the story of "Marcus Ross, 31, the latest inductee into the movement, who got his Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Rhode Island last summer."
Ross subsequently wrote a 197-page dissertation about a marine reptile called a mosasaur, whose disappearance he tracked through the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago. Fastovsky described the paper as "utterly sound," and the committee recommended very minimal edits.
At the conference I asked Ross whether he still believes what he wrote in his graduate thesis. His answer confirmed him as the product of the postmodern university, where truth is dependent on the framework: "Within the context of old age and evolutionary theory, yes. But if the parameter is different, portions of it could be completely in error."
Ross and other scientists are working on providing scientific legitimacy for the significant percentage (45) of Americans who believe in the Genesis account of creation. But they're rather patronizing toward their fellow believers without Ph.D.s. Rosin writes,
Like any group of elites, they were snobs about their superior degrees. During lunch breaks or car rides, they traded jokes about the "vulgar creationists" and the "uneducated masses," and, in their least Christian moments, the "idiots on the Web." One leader of a creationist institute complained about all the cranks who call on the phone claiming to have seen dinosaurs or to have had a vision of Noah's ark.
And their scientific method leaves Rosin skeptical. "'We don't subscribe to this idea of the ?God of gaps,' meaning if you can't explain something, then blame God," [John] Whitmore [a professor at Cedarville] told me before describing a method that hardly seemed more scientific. "Instead, we think: ?Here's what the Bible says. Now let's go to the rocks and see if we find the evidence for it.' "
Their work is likely to cause only more headaches for proponents of evolution on school boards across the country. Armed with whatever evidence these scientists come up with, creationism proponents (or teach-the-controversy proponents) will be crashing the gates of school boards for decades to come.
But it's not only secular evolutionists who are playing defense. In fact, "The new creationists are not likely to make much of a dent among secular scientists, who often just roll their eyes at the mention of flood geology." Rosin writes, "But they have become a burden to many geologists at Christian colleges around the country."
Christian evolutionists are the ones really bugged by this movement. "Geology at Wheaton is presented and practiced much the same way as at secular universities," Stephen Moshier, the department chair, says. However, young earth creationists have a lot of influence, Moshier says. "It can get so frustrating," he said. "Many of us at Christian colleges really grieve at what a problem this young-earth creationism makes for the Christian witness. It's almost like they're adding another thing you have to believe to become a Christian. It's like saying, You have to believe the world is flat to be a Christian, and that's absolutely unreasonable."
Rosin's full article is worth reading. The characters, quotes, and stories she tells give an illuminating look at this movement that keeps rearing its head, to the chagrin of Christians and atheist evolutionists alike.