Re: Apparent age, Origin of Life

Peter Vibert (
Tue, 2 Apr 1996 14:29:56 -0500

While we for the most part have no difficulty convincing ourselves and one
another that "apparent age" is a concept full of problems theological,
philosophical and physical, it's good to remember that such argumentation
has zero impact on those who believe in or promote YEC views.

As Loren's glossary of positions made beautifully plain, YECs can adopt two
versions of the argument: (1) the universe, earth and life appear old, but
are not - God having built in an "appearance of age"; (2) the universe,
earth and life appear old, but are not - as *correctly done science* would

This dual approach, with rapid switching from one to the other as occasion
demands, has the great advantage of allowing *any* evidence to be dealt
with as either erroneous or wrongly interpreted. This is a no-win/can't
fail arrangement, depending which side you're on.

In this sense YEC views have much in common with the kind of evolutionary
"just-so stories" so favored by eg. Richard Dawkins and blasted years ago
by Gould and Lewontin. (Has anyone else read Dawkins' recent "A River Out
of Eden"? I found it astonishingly naive. But then should one expect a
zoologist to understand biochemistry?? Does anyone really believe that once
ANY self-replicating polymer has formed, the entire Darwinian process
inexorably leads to cells...?).

This is the kind of thing I had in mind in my comments about 'origin of
life' studies. To suppose that once a *possible* pathway has been
identified, a problem is 'solved in principle' seems to me more like
Aristotelian science than empiricism. Although Paul is right about the new
directions being pursued, and the dangers of being over-confident about
what "can't be done", I have the odd feeling (even after trying to read
Kaufmann) that complexity's new scenarios may not be enough.

But I do agree that the most appropriate attitude is to "wait and see". In
science, this attitude is second nature. Living with uncertainty and
suspending judgement are what we do every day in research. (It's also a
very good approach to many problems in theology). But in general life, in
the life of the church today, and especially in many teaching situations,
it's not. People want answers, and anyone (including YECs) who can offer a
confident assertion of the "truth" will get a preferred hearing.


Peter J. Vibert
Senior Scientist Interim Pastor
Rosenstiel Basic Medical The Congregational Church
Sciences Research Center in North Chelmsford
Brandeis University 15 Princeton Street
PO Box 9110, Waltham, MA 02254 N. Chelmsford, MA 01863

tel: (617) 736-4947 tel: (508) 251-1261
fax: (617) 736-2419