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Logic With and Behind Creationism

on February 10, 2007
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USA TODAY: “The Bible vs. science

There’s usually little doubt, when an opinion piece is headlined as this one is, that the author is no friend of creation research. This article, from USA TODAY, upholds the trend.

The first mistake comes six paragraphs in:

The stakes seem even higher to some on the creationist side. If their rhetoric is any indication, nothing short of the existence of God hinges on their ‘proving’ that the canyon was not the result of gradual geologic processes, but of Noah’s flood.

A belief in God and His Word comes first and then come the conclusions that result from that belief.

The author, Tom Krattenmaker, a regular religion columnist with this national paper, seems to be arguing that we creationists believe in a sort of inductive, evidential argument for God: we [somehow] “prove” the Grand Canyon’s Noachian origin, thereby [partially] “proving” the Bible, thus “proving” the existence of God. Not quite; the author has it backward. Instead, a belief in God and His Word comes first and then come the conclusions that result from that belief (for example, that the Flood described in Genesis would have massively altered the geology of the earth).

The author is misunderstanding the words of Tom Vail, author of Grand Canyon: A Different View, when he writes “[I]f we’re right, if the Grand Canyon is the result of a global flood and the Bible is true, then there’s a God. And if there’s a God, then there’s a God that they might be [answerable] to.” In this passage, Vail is not explaining creationist thought, but rather characterizing the naturalist’s thought process.

Krattenmaker then decides to trip himself with a logical fallacy:

Vail’s point, however, begs a question that he and like-minded creationists might not want asked. If they’re objectively wrong about the genesis of the Grand Canyon and other geologic matters—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a mainstream scientist who says they aren’t—must they concede that God does not exist?

Even ignoring the fact that Vail is merely characterizing naturalist thought rather than explaining creationist logic, Krattenmaker has committed a glaring logical error: he has denied the antecedent. In other words, he's taking this argument (which can be thought of in the form If P, then Q):

Creationists are simply arguing that naturalists try to avoid recognizing God’s existence by avoiding signs of His Word’s truth.

If [the Grand Canyon is the result of a global flood and the Bible is true], then [there is a God].

… then saying that if the antecedent (conditional) is false (that is, if the Grand Canyon were formed over millions of years), the consequent (conclusion) must be false—that is, If not P, then not Q. This is a logical fallacy akin to arguing that if a particular tomb doesn’t belong to King David, then King David cannot have existed. Krattenmaker is trying to portray creationists as arguing “if the Grand Canyon wasn’t caused by the Flood, there is no God”; rather, creationists are simply arguing that naturalists try to avoid recognizing God’s existence by avoiding signs of His Word’s truth.

Krattenmaker adds that “[n]o amount of scientific evidence will convince an ardent creationist of the validity of human evolution or that the Earth is billions of years old.” He apparently is unaware of a basic philosophical tenet of creationists: scientific evidence by definition cannot exceed the bounds of Scripture, which clearly teaches creation ex nihilo a few thousand years ago. Yet Krattenmaker marches on in his ignorance:

Nevertheless, the question frames a problem with the stance of the anti-science creationists that threatens not only their version of the world‘s origins, but also the credibility of their religion itself. Because by attempting to marshal empirical evidence in support of their beliefs, they enter the debate on the scientists’ terms—terms that cannot possibly work in favor of a literal reading of the Bible. By playing in this arena, haven’t the creationists already lost the argument?

Creationists are not trying to use evidence to prop up our beliefs: our basic belief—our presupposition—is the truth of the Bible; this needs no support. We are simply showing how the “evidence” (rock layers, fossils, etc.) fits within the framework of our presupposition. Besides, Krattenmaker’s idea of entering the debate on so-called scientists’ (actually naturalists’) terms basically means leaving the Bible out of the debate and agreeing with naturalists’ uniformitarian assumptions!

“Mainstream scientists” don’t believe in creation—yet this is impossible, for if a scientist believes in creation, he or she is instantly considered “out of the mainstream”!

Krattenmaker then takes his arguments to a personal level, referencing the Creation Museum and also one of its consultants Dr. Kurt Wise. Throughout the rest of the piece, Krattenmaker commits similar mistakes—for example, saying that “mainstream scientists” don’t believe in creation—yet this is impossible, for if a scientist believes in creation, he or she is instantly considered “out of the mainstream”! Krattenmaker also alleges that creationists are “ultimately … not interested in science” (ignoring the long history of creationist scientists). He asks:

How many Americans are ready to accept the proposition that science has made a colossal error interpreting the fossil and geological record and—more radical still—that the validity of Christianity depends on proving it?

Yet Krattenmaker must be unaware of the fact that the “science” he’s referring to is founded on naturalistic assumptions that are incompatible with the Bible in the first place! His conclusion is that creationists should “[l]et science be science, and let religion prevail in the vast areas where science has little or nothing to offer.” This hackneyed notion forgets that many scientists (e.g., Richard Dawkins) want their form of atheistic science to pervade all of life.

Krattenmaker ultimately returns to his misapprehension that such efforts as the Creation Museum are attempts to prove the Bible with science. We have pointed out before that we make no attempts to prove Scripture; it is our starting point, our foundation. Rather, the Creation Museum and books like Grand Canyon: A Different View articulate how our observations are consistent with Scripture.


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