How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments?
A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims
by Dave E. Matson
Copyright © 1994-2002
Dr. Hovind: It only takes one proof of a young earth to decide between CREATION and EVOLUTION.
This magic bullet mentality, the tendency to rely on a single, isolated argument to win all the chips, has gotten creationists into more trouble than possibly anything else. Unfortunately, Mother Nature does not give little, gold ribbons to certify the accuracy of our proofs! Indeed, nothing in science is ever "proven" beyond all possible doubt; there is no way of knowing, with 100% certainty, that one's proof is foolproof. One can always dream up possible scenarios that will contradict even the best scientific models. (The better the model, the more farfetched the loopholes are.) If you crave the certainty of a real "proof," the final word as it were, then you had better stick to mathematics or logic! Those are the only arenas where absolute proof plays any serious role.
Scientific hypotheses are rated according to their credibility; as more and more data support a scientific hypothesis, the greater our confidence in it. If that hypothesis fits into a common pattern, successfully interlocking with established theories, then it gets another big plus. If that hypothesis has no credible competition, despite much work in the area, then our confidence in it begins to soar. If that hypothesis also supplies us with numerous insights into nature, which are confirmed by further observation and testing, then it might attain the status of a "scientific theory." (Note that a scientific theory ranks very high in credibility, has been tested repeatedly, and serves as a successful framework for integrating and explaining a class of diverse, natural phenomena; it must not be confused with the layman's use of "theory" which refers to half-baked speculation or guesswork. Consequently, the complaint that evolution is merely a (scientific) theory is a little like saying that an athlete is merely a gold-medal winner!)
If there is one thread running through the scientific world, it is an emphasis on the total picture. Great care is taken to survey all the relevant literature and to arrive at a balanced judgment of the known facts. Scientists are trained to overcome a one-shot, "cowboy" mentality. When great scientific ideas do fall, on rare occasions, they do so of many grievous wounds followed by the rethinking of the total picture. The idea, literally worshiped in creationist circles, that you can disprove a theory by whipping out some cute, isolated "proof" that settles everything at once and for all, is not scientific. Even if such a "proof" were technically correct, it would likely shoot down only a weak model of the theory. Deep truths are seldom grasped whole; early models are often flawed in some of their particulars. Furthermore, isolated data, even if correct, are often misleading. Consequently, scientists must evaluate the total picture and avoid being fixated on specific points.
Facts successfully explained do carry weight and cannot be ignored; facts that don't fit are not necessarily fatal to the central ideas behind a hypothesis. Good scientific judgment is the art of weighing all these variables and properly evaluating the big picture. Contrary data and isolated arguments are important in that they carry the potential for bringing down a theory or hypothesis. That grand potential is seldom realized in the light of further investigation.
The one thread running through "scientific" creationism is a fixation on particular arguments or "proofs" to the exclusion of all else. This shows a profound misunderstanding of the scientific process by people who should know better. Dr. Hovind, for example, is blissfully ignorant of the relevant literature surrounding his "proofs." Consequently, his audience is given no hint of what the "competition" has to say. Nor does he discuss the weaknesses in his arguments. (By comparison, Darwin was always mindful to point out potential problems and acknowledge the strongest opposing arguments.) In short, Dr. Hovind has made no attempt to grapple with the BIG PICTURE. As a result, his arguments carry no scientific weight.
Not one of Dr. Hovind's 30 isolated "proofs" holds any water. Meanwhile, an avalanche of burgeoning data continue to increase our confidence in an ancient Earth and cosmos. I will refute every last "proof" of a young Earth listed in Dr. Hovind's Seminar Notebook (c. 1994). I will also supply two or three examples which have no reasonable interpretation save that our Earth is old.