Answers in Genesis again shows why its worldview doesn’t make any sense

Answers in Genesis can't even recognize Pi Day without wrecking its own worldview (photo by Dan Parsons, via Wikimedia Commons).

As you may have heard, this past Saturday was “epic” Pi Day, an especially … er … pi-y occurrence of the annual geek-culture celebration recognizing the fact that the date shares the first three digits of the infinite mathematical constant pi.

Being more of a nerd of the Oxford comma, Spider-Man and Han Solo variety than the “trigonometry really gets my blood pumping” variety, celebrating Pi Day is not normally a top priority for me, even on the one time a century when the year also conforms to pi.

However, this Saturday, my wife and I were blessed to attend the wedding of one of my dear friends, who also happens to be a Ph.D. student in the biomedical engineering program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., and who knows lots of things about pi that I’m not interested in knowing. We were able to witness him and his new bride cutting into a freshly baked blueberry pie on 3.14.15, at exactly 9:26:53 p.m., which is more deeply initiated into Pi Day than I expect to ever be again for as long as I live.

It was not until this morning, then, that I saw the Pi Day essay posted at the Answers in Genesis website by two writers, Avery Foley and Frost Smith, with whom I’d had no previous experience. It is worth reading and a few remarks, simply because it so clearly illustrates a fundamental aspect of the Answers in Genesis worldview (previously discussed on this blog after Ken Ham’s disastrous “debate” with Bill Nye), which is not only baffling and nonsensical, but also hilarious because it is so utterly self-defeating.

Foley and Smith begin well enough:

Physics and mathematics are only possible because we live in a rational universe. If random naturalistic evolution were true, then we shouldn’t expect to have universal constants like pi. Why should things work the same throughout the whole universe? Why should our universe run in an orderly fashion if it is just the result of purposeless chance? What gives order to our whole universe? What causes pi to be the same today and tomorrow? Why do the laws of physics operate in predictable ways?

I can’t imagine too many Christians disagreeing with most of those sentiments. Of course, the authors fallaciously equate evolution, a well-supported biological theorem positing a process by which life on earth descended from a common ancestor, with the philosophical position of atheistic naturalism, but I’m pretty sure AiG won’t let you write for them unless you do that.

Anyway, I’m content to give Foley and Smith all the rope they like. They’re about to hang themselves soon.

We live in an orderly and consistent universe because there is a consistent God who upholds the universe (Hebrews 1:3). Universal constants and order make sense because there is a God who never changes (Malachi 3:6) and who has imposed order on His creation—and this all-knowing God has informed us of this. That’s why we can know that the laws of nature will operate the same way next week as they did this week (Genesis 8:22).

Obviously, this is all quite rational and well-founded logic, especially for AiG. Personally, I agree with it 100 percent. The problem is that this position directly contradicts a fundamental tenet of the young-earth creationist worldview.

You see, YEC outfits like AiG explicitly reject the scientific principle of uniformitarianism, which holds that the natural laws and processes we see at work in the present day operated in much the same way in the past. This makes perfect sense, to assume, for example, that things like the speed of light or the decay rates of radioactive isotopes, which have always proven to be reliably constant through countless observations and experiments over decades of scientific inquiry, were also constant in the decades and centuries and millenia before we started measuring them.

But though this makes intuitive sense, AiG cannot accept it. To affirm uniformitarianism would be to acknowledge the fatal flaws in their own worldview, namely, that the evidence effectively and overwhelmingly makes it impossible for the universe to be as young as they and their literal interpretation of Genesis say it is.

Which is why you see AiG’s stable of authors repeatedly saying stuff like this (emphasis mine):

[O]ur position is that all the dating techniques used in geology, cosmology, and physics are wrong when they claim that the universe is 13–15 billion years old and the earth about 4.5 billion years old. All the dating techniques are based on assumptions, and the main assumption is the constancy of the process rates used to calculate those ages. Since that assumption is used in all the dating techniques of geology, cosmology, and physics, then if that assumption is wrong, then so are all the dates. According to God’s Word that assumption of constancy of process rates is wrong.

You get that? The fundamental rates underlying such fields as geology, cosmology and physics are — according to young-earth creationists — not reliable, because they’re based on the assumption of uniformitarianism. In order for the idea of a 6,000-year-old universe to remotely begin to jibe with the available evidence, the laws of nature must be chaotic and unpredictable. Young-earth creationism can survive no other way.

So how can they then, in their Pi Day essay, argue in favor of uniformitarianism? Bottom line: They can’t. They are being fundamentally inconsistent, which is not really out of character for them.

Here’s one last snippet from Saturday’s article, just to bring the point home:

In order for us to even be able to do physics or mathematics, we must assume that the universe is orderly and that laws of nature will operate the same tomorrow as today. Yet in a naturalistic worldview there is no way to know the future . . . for all they know, the laws of nature might change tomorrow.

Now do you see how hilarious this all is? Not only are they shooting themselves in the foot by supporting a principle that ravages their own crazy worlview, but they’re actually attempting to argue that principle is somehow detrimental to the theories of modern science, when it is, in fact, one of the foundational tenets underlying them.

So just to sum up, their argument is that the only reason we can do science at all is because God created a law-governed, rational universe, but we can’t trust the evidence of the past, because God could have done any number of crazy, random, irrational things in the process of creating his law-governed, rational universe.

Sorry, guys, but you can’t have it both ways. Either God is a rational and trustworthy being, as the Bible absolutely teaches, and therefore the universe he made is rational or trustworthy, or he is deceitful and unpredictable, and therefore we cannot trust anything that proceeded from his dishonest hands.

AiG’s choice is clear. Which do you choose?

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at tyler@godofevolution.com.

  • The value of pi, unlike (say) the decay constant of U-238, is an analytic fact, independent of observation and the same in all logically possible universes. So unless you think that mathematics presupposes God, they are wrong from the git-go. As for the constancy of the laws of nature, I think that’s one of the better arguments for God, just as the very existence of Ken Ham is one of the best arguments against it.

  • Larry Bunce

    The value of pi brings uo one place where a straightforward reading of 1 Kings 7:23 does not work. A vessel is described as having a diameter of 10 cubits and a circumference of 30 cubits, giving pi the value of 3.0. Even allowing for a lack of decimal places, the circumference should be 31 cubits. It is known that the Babylonians used 3 for pi, which would seem the source of this value in the Bible. Some argue that the rim flared out at the top, so that the circumference and diameter were measured at different places, so that the values 10 and 30 could have been given accurately, but this requires extra-biblical assumptions that YEC’s don’t allow in interpreting Genesis.

    • As far as I’m concerned, the author was simply approximating in that passage, not sharing scientifically accurate measurements, just as when I say my uncle’s house is a mile down the road, I don’t mean it is exactly 5,280.00 feet away. But you’re right: such a position is difficult for a literalist to take without self-contradiction.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      I figure whoever was recording 1 Kings 7 was just rounding things off to the nearest whole number.
      However, someone actually claimed that SCRIPTURE took the thickness of the bowl into account and the INSIDE circumference was 3 x the OUTSIDE diameter. This explanation sounded to me like someone with too much time on their hands.

      • Yeah, I think that person has way too much time on their hands. And also, a very poor grasp of what a bowl looks like.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    In order for the idea of a 6,000-year-old universe to remotely begin to jibe with the available evidence, the laws of nature must be chaotic and unpredictable.

    At which point, Ham & Co had better start checking their closets and under their beds for a Chinese dragon made of mismatched animal parts stuck together with a voice like John DeLancie.

    • Random Access

      Huh, wasn’t expecting a pony reference here, kudos to you sir. XD

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Sez the guy with the laughing Pikachu as an icon…

        • Random Access

          What, it’s suddenly a crime to be a fan of more than one franchise? XD

  • ashleyhr

    I think Tyler may not sufficiently understand the tortured logic of Answers in Genesis – and how, apparently, what they are describing here (re the unchanging value of pi and the ability to consistently do maths correctly at least) is ‘not’ uniformitarianism but something else that they (and perhaps nobody else in the 21st century apart from some YECs) call ‘uniformity of nature’. You may wish to see my opening post of around 24 hours ago in this other blog discussion: https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/aig-embraces-uniformitarianism/#comments

    • ashleyhr

      PS Other YECs are still lying blatantly about the ‘end’ of uniformitarianism: https://www.facebook.com/creationministries “Uniformitarianism (long shown by creationists to be an inadequate mechanism to produce the rock and fossil record) was once the foundational ‘doctrine’ of the geologist. Many geologists now accept ‘Neo-catastrophism’ (many catastrophes over millions of years). Why the change, and does this theory fare any better?” (I’ve not listened to the video of the ‘gruesome twosome’.)

  • Chris Mason

    When opening this, I was half-expecting them to argue that pi = 3 or something. Once you quoted the second paragraph, I was like “Oh, I know what’s coming. It’s about uniformitarianism.” They never cease to amaze me.

    • At least we who stand as their philosophical opponents never have to worry about surprises. They make a broken record sound like an improv comedian.

      • Chris Mason

        Haha! Indeed.