Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor



Thomas H. Leith

Response to LaBar, Thompson, and Multhauf (June 1966)


From: JASA 18 (June 1966): 63.

My argument involved the following important points.

1) A proposition is logically impossible if, though it is internally consistent, any evidence appropriate to it is at the same time both evidence corroborating and evidence falsifying it.

2) The proposition "The knowable universe began with an apparent age considerably greater than its actual age" is logically impossible. It entails that the knowable universe began at some actual date and that its apparent age at that time was considerably greater than its actual age. The second part of the conjunction is a logical impossibility, hence the entire conjunction is logically impossible. The only escape is to accept only the first part of the conjunction and base its corroboration on (say) revelation. Such revelation, however, provides no escape from the absurdity of the second part of the conjunction.

3) The corroboration of the proposition "The knowable universe began at some (given) date", where science is useless in determining this date, must rest on an exegesis of special revelation using correct hermeneutical principles if it is to be taken seriously. I have to be shown that the principles used by advocates of the 'apparent age' thesis are even likely to be correct. I also find the thesis repugnant in its theological implications where the theology is based on a coherent interpretation of Scripture.

4) 1 do not agree that the miracle of Lazarus or the feeding of the multitude are analogies to 'creation with built-in age! They are seen as miracles because they are hiatuses in the regularity of natural events; the 'creation with built-in age' has not, and cannot have, such evidence. To believe it one must rest one's case on something like special revelation and that has the difficulties noted in (3).

5) Whitcomb and Morris hold a thesis containing the 4apparent age' thesis and other complications. They fail to convince on their exegesis and they leave one in theological difficulty, although no attempt was made to more than outline this. Their major error lies in their committing most of the blunders mentioned above and in.their failure to recognize that their criticisms of ordinary geological thinking are both based on misunderstanding and irrelevant in any case to their version of the thesis of 'apparent age'.

Thus in reply to Mr. Thompson let me point out that a proposition like "Organism A changed into organism B by micro-evolutionary events" is not a case of (1) above. Even if one believes that the proposition is false, one can imagine some scientist observing a past unexplainable origin of B.

Clearly, evidence against the truth of the proposition from observing nature is potentially available, however hard it is to obtain. It is quite another matter to claim that we cannot extrapolate with assurance into the past from present knowledge. On certain assumptions we think we can do so fairly well sometimes and more poorly at other times but we, as believing scientists, should be unwilling to do away with our assumptions unless they don't work or unless Scripture demands we do so. Miracles like the raising of Lazarus are examples of the latter but Genesis I and 2 don't seem to me to offer sufficient additional cases to change my usual patterns of geological and biological thinking. If this is 'naturalism' it is an odd use of the term.

Mr. La Bar's first criticism misses the argument in the paragraph to which he refers. I refer him to (1) and (2) above and to paragraph four of my paper. ffis second criticism fails to notice that Whitcomb and Morris believe both that the flood added to the apparent age of many areas of the earth but that what it destroyed had also an apparent age much older than its actual age. The third criticism misses my point. All scientists must be unwillingly confused into taking many things to be older than they are if the way the thesis of 'apparent age' considers certain things to be is the case. They, now forced to cease being a scientist in talking of much of geology and biology, can presumably have the confusion removed through revelation. If they don't listen they are willingly confused, but if it doesn't teach 'apparent age' it is the advocate of that thesis who must be confused.

Mr. Multhauf misreads me in his first criticism: I think it is met in my paper but I refer him to (1) and (2) above. His second criticism fails to notice that a proposition like "God exists" is surely logically possible-the evidence for it is not the same as the evidence against it. Of course it is not a scientific proposition since the normal canons of scientific evidence are not called for. Indeed, the proposition is ontologically prior to all scientific work I believe, although it is not seen to be so by the unbeliever. Thus I don't take the logical possibility of "God exists" to be an arbitrary convention. To accept or reject it is the most important decision any of us makes.

I do hope that my friends now see my argument more clearly.