An email about the young earth belief

Yesterday I got an email by a listener of The Phileas Club. I often get emails and answer them privately, but after writing this one I thought that it was summarizing my thoughts on the topic enough that I should make a blog post about it. So here is the original email, and my answer.
Quick note: the topic is sensitive, and in the past we have managed to keep these kinds of debates very civilized on this blog. If you chose to comment, please keep that tradition alive, thanks! 🙂

B.’s email:

I recently started listening to your show and started from the beginning and have been slowly catching up to the recent shows. I was a little disappointed at the sara palen talk because of the anti religious tone it took but let it go because i figured that was going on in the media at the time as well. Then I got to episode 10 and was completely offended at the comment you made that something should be done to people that preach the young earth theory. Evolution is not fact, it might be the majority view but remember that the majority also thought the world was flat at one point. There are scientists that use the same research as evolutionist and show it to back the theory of a young earth. I don’t expect you to change your view on this subject but I think you should know that our comment upset me.

And my answer (I didn’t address the Sarah Palin comments or the other details, as I thought they weren’t really the core of the issue):

Hi B.,

First of all let me thank you for taking the time to write to me; I really appreciate it.

That being said, I’m very sorry but I’m afraid that I cannot subscribe to what you’re saying… The “young earth theory” is not a theory, it’s a belief. The people who support it aren’t scientists, they’re spokespeople for organisations that have other agendas. A theory is supported by verifiable fact, and no fact comes to support the idea that the earth is 6000 years old. No scientist worth their salt, and no one who understands the meaning of the word, will give any credit to it.

This is my whole argument: by treating this “idea” as a theory, we validate it and lead people to believe that there might be some truth to it. There isn’t, and we should stop indulging it altogether. Don’t get me wrong: you are of course free to believe whatever you want, but believing something like that is very simply ignorance and missinformation, not “just another theory”.

It’s very ironic that you would use the “flat earth” example as a comparison, because you are on the very side of the people who defended it for so long, and they did it for the exact same reasons! How saddening is it that hundreds of years later we have to be fighting the same fight against the same people in the same way? Thankfully no one is getting burned today…

Also, I have to say that I don’t understand why some people need to discredit evolution in order to be comfortable with their faith. I think this agenda comes from a very literal reading of the bible that some people need to maintain in order to follow other literal interpretations also. I guess their thinking is: “if you discredit this one, then maybe the other ones aren’t valid either!”. So they will do everything they can to maintain it, no matter how ludicrous or just plain silly. But why couldn’t have God planted, planned and even executed evolution? Why couldn’t he be watching our every move, tweeking and adjusting his creations and their DNA to take them where he wants to take them? He could, and that’s probably what he did.

Evolution is NOT incompatible with faith. It is only incompatible with a very narrow and literal view of the bible, which only the more extreme want to uphold. The bible is a guide and a light to help you grow, not an instruction booklet for mindless drones who should follow it blindly and be forbidden to think about the meaning.

I know that you won’t believe me and I won’t change your mind, and that’s absolutely fine. We can disagree and stay civilized, but I won’t treat that idea as just a theory, because it devalues us and our progress: if we indulge ignorance, we start regressing as a society. And by the way, even the pope says that this concept is ridiculous and acknowledges evolution beyond the shadow of a doubt… Who am I to disagree with the pope? 🙂

Anyway, that’s my two cents about the topic. I hope I didn’t offend you (too much) and I’d like to thank you again for writing to me about this. I might sound harsh but I truly appreciate the fact that you would want to let me know how you felt rather than just being angry at me in your corner of our beautiful (round) planet!

October 10th, 2009