* For Ann Reid and Eugenie Scott *
Hello everyone. I’m “Dr. X,” editor and principal author of this rather unorthodox biography you’re reading about my friend and colleague, “Dr. Why.” I wrote this paragraph while relaxing in an evergreen-forest campground dotted with electrical boxes disguised as giant Christmas mushrooms. Given Why’s appeal to psychoactive fungi in his comedic rendition of the “Fall of Man” story two conversations ago, I couldn’t help but wonder if I really am Eve dying of an overdose in Eden!
We’ve been recounting Why’s past to explicate his present thinking on science and religion—a topic about which he has some valuable things to say. Why is unavailable at the moment, however, so I’ve decided to introduce you to an old friend from his formative years, nicknamed Yec. Why’s dealings with Yec were mostly extra-curricular, as Yec was expelled from Why’s school when they were both quite young. The school said the expulsion was justified by Yec’s irrepressible tendency to blurt out ridiculous nonsense in class, and the government concurred with a statement that cited constitutional limits on free speech. But Yec’s supporters attributed it to a sort of bigotry inspired by Yec’s gross deformities and bizarre mannerisms. And Yec really is grossly deformed, so I won’t ask you to shake its hand during this introduction, only to stare at it long enough to get a sense of what we’re talking about. Yec’s full name, after all, is young-Earth creationism.
Not a very warm introduction, but I feel rather uncomfortable around Yec. I hope Why will forgive me for it. And I’m sure he will, because the key to becoming a former young-Earth creationist is learning to laugh at yourself!
But enough joking. Bizarre or not, young-Earth creationism deserves a place in Why’s biography just because of its prominent role in Why’s past. So what I’d like to do right now is to expose the essence of Yec: unlike Intelligent-Design creationism, which is primarily concerned with design arguments for the existence of God, Yec’s primary concern—perhaps even its only concern—is faithfulness to literally interpreted scripture. After all, young-Earth creationists seem ready to affirm anything the Bible says or even implies no matter how unscientific or otherwise outrageous it may be.
Isn’t that right, Yec?
Yec: Absolutely—minus that bit about outrageousness. God says it, I believe it. Nothing outrageous in that. Not believing God is what’s outrageous.
X: Perhaps you’d help me unpack that claim for my readers by answering a few questions?
Yec: I might.
X: Terrific. I’ve heard you say that no animal ever died before Adam sinned. Do you really believe that?
Yec: You know I do. Romans 5:12-14 says that death entered the world through the sin of one man: Adam.
X: But that’s clearly false, Yec. Humans don’t appear until very late in Earth history.
Yec: You’d stay closer to the facts if you said that human remains have so far been found only at the top of the fossil record.
X: You think we’ve been around for more of Earth history than the fossil record shows?
Yec: More than it’s been interpreted to show. Far more. Isn’t that implied by the scripture I cited?
X: I want to be sure everyone follows this, so I recommend that geologically uninformed readers imagine themselves standing at the rim of Grand Canyon, looking across at the opposite cliff. Now, Yec, you agree that the layers of rock lower in that cliff are older than the layers higher up in the cliff?
Yec: I mostly accept your “law of superposition,” sure.
X: But the strata exposed in that cliff are full of animal fossils all the way down through the Cambrian sandstone near the bottom of the Canyon. So where did Adam do the sinning that killed all those animals?
X: I mean where stratigraphically, Yec. For Adam’s sin to cause the death of all those animals, he’d have to predate them, right? In which case Eden existed before all those fossiliferous rock strata?
Yec: That’s right.
X: A Precambrian Garden of Eden! But that’s over half a billion years ago, Yec!
Yec: Not nearly. The Bible says Adam lived only thousands of years ago. Read the genealogies and do the math.
X: But what about all those layers of rock? On top of what’s exposed in Grand Canyon there’s the rest of the Grand Staircase stepping all the way back to above Bryce Canyon in Utah! We’re talking about a miles-high pile of fossil-rich rocks! You think all of that accumulated in just a few thousand years?
Yec: I think most of it accumulated in the year of the Flood.
X: “The year of the Flood“?
Yec: Genesis 6 says that men’s sin had become so great just a couple thousand years after creation that God drowned the entire planet in a raging Flood: the fountains of the great deep burst open, it rained for forty days and nights, and Earth was flooded for a year—even the highest mountains were covered. Only Noah and his companions in the Ark survived. No wonder there’s billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the Earth! An incredible geological catastrophe!
X: Incredible indeed! Yet you believe all of this just because the Bible says it?
Yec: Or implies it. God does.
X: I’m afraid we’re out of time, Yec, but I want to thank you for this very interesting exchange. You’ve not only helped me summarize your key ideas for my readers; you’ve even helped us estimate their worth!
Dr. Why, will you please come back next time to reminisce about Yec and to help me appraise the justifications offered for its expulsion? I doubt I’ll be able to restrain myself if you make me go it alone.