Some of my friends (one in particular), with whom I have had rather emotional arguments about the age of Earth and the Universe, have asked something to the effect of, “What is wrong with Christians believing Young Earth Creationism (YEC)? How are my views on such an apparently abstract question important to my daily life?” These are important and valid questions, to which I will give several answers. These answers are my personal opinion and may or may not represent the opinions of other Christian scientists.
In the famous Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus commanded us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” To fulfill this Commission, one must have some level of credibility with prospective disciples, as Paul recognized in a different context. Someone who interprets Genesis to mean that Earth is a few thousand years old has nearly zero credibility with my scientific colleagues. They know far more about the relevant science than most people advocating a Young-Earth interpretation of Genesis, so they are not inclined to believe YECs about other matters. This makes my witness more difficult because I must spend time demonstrating that I do not hold this view and that becoming a Christian does not require one to hold this view.
In other words, the literal interpretation of Genesis held by a large number of my fellow followers of Christ is a true impediment to my witness to my fellow scientists. An unusually potent example is found in Prof. Bob Park of the University of Maryland; as you can read in item 2 of one of his weekly “What’s New” articles, accepting a 6,000 year old Earth would make discussing the gospel with him even more difficult that it would otherwise be.
To understand this impediment, let us take (as an example) an essay entitled “Antimatter and the Big Bang” by high school student Paul Lamicela. With it, he won a national essay contest judged by the staff of Answers in Genesis (AiG); entrants “were asked to write a Bible-defending research paper using the book” War of the Worldviews “and at least one AiG web article as references.” The subject of the essay is the baryon asymmetry or “baryon number problem,” as Mr. Lamicela calls it, which is the predominance of matter over antimatter in the Universe. I chose this example because this asymmetry is one of the primary reasons that BaBar, the experiment on which I work, was built.
The abstract for his essay begins,
“This is an example of the War of the Worldviews in action! As I researched the baryon number problem, I found many brilliant, evolutionary scientists indicate that this problem has basically been solved.”
In the second sentence of the abstract, two substantial errors are already apparent.
- The scientists who research baryon asymmetry are not “evolutionary scientists,” which would imply that they are biologists. They are physicists, astrophysicists, cosmologists, and researchers in related fields.
- Physicists and astrophysicists know that this problem has not been solved. To my knowledge, no scientist has ever indicated that this is a solved problem; I have seen and given several presentations in which I state that this is one of the major unanswered questions of physics. It is the clearly listed as one of the “Unsolved Mysteries” of particle physics at The Particle Adventure, which is an excellent introductory website.
I could continue to point out other errors, but these two have already demolished any scientific credibility this young man has in my eyes. That is a shame because elsewhere in the essay, he demonstrates an impressive grasp of the material. If a scientist gives this student no credibility in an area in which he or she is an expert, the student would have no reason to expect nay credibility in areas, such as faith and Christianity, less familiar to the scientist.
For those who are reading this and believe that Earth is a few thousand years old, how would you react if one of your children were to announce that he or she wants to be an astronomer, paleontologist, geologist, or evolutionary biologist when he or she grows up? The dearth of Christians in the physical sciences is a problem on several levels, and I fear that some Christians are exacerbating it by their attacks on science.
For example, a writer for the Institute for Creation Research asserts that his colleagues who accept an old age for Earth are “dominated by uniformitarian brainwashing.” I suspect that a young Christian student would have his or her desire to enter a scientific discipline reduced by warnings of this kind. That would only increase the dearth of Christians in the sciences and reduce the number of Christians who can credibly evangelize to scientists, which probably increase the number and severity of warnings to young students about the dangers of science. Thus, this destructive cycle continues.