Skip to main content

Old Earth Aesthetics: The Duck Test



Prompted by something I heard in a Kent Hovind seminar, I recently asked a colleague what he thought was more absurd: to say I don’t believe in evolution, or to say I think the earth isn’t billions of years old.

Now, I asked this particular colleague partly because I knew he was smart enough to give me the answer I was looking for - the correct answer - which is that it’s more absurd to claim the earth is you and not billions of years old. Suffice to say he didn’t let me down and explained why. He thought about the question for a little moment and said that the reason it’s more absurd to say the earth is old is because evolution is automatically untrue (to his mind) if the age of the earth is young. So if you kill the old age idea, you necessarily kill the evolution idea. If you disprove evolution you don’t automatically disprove the old age theory, but if you dismiss with billions of years, you at the same time disprove evolution. Therefore the claim that the age of the earth is only thousands not billions of years old is doubly absurd because it gets rid of two things that are claimed to be true in one fell swoop. Two birds, one stone.

The point of engineering this little social experiment was to demonstrate that most of the problem I have with the age of the earth being considered billions of years old, is its direct connection to evolution. Billions of years, as far as I can tell, is a crutch for the evolution model, which, when removed, will topple (or at least destabilise) the atheism which stands so firmly upon it! When people who don’t believe in God think about origins, billions of years and evolution are two sides of the same coin. Both are required, and both are presupposed. So, even though old earth aesthetics aren’t necessarily evolution aesthetics, evolution aesthetics are necessarily old earth aesthetics.

Are either of these ideas bad in and of themselves, then? Well, hypothetically, no. In the realm of possibility, it’s not impossible for God to have created life over a very long period of time and/or through an evolutionary process. Though, if he did, they would be good and would produce good results and the good results would indicate a good origin. It is through the outcome of a particular idea that you can tell if it’s good or bad. The aesthetic dimension is a way to assess the moral dimension. So learning to read aesthetics as a way to learn about morals can be rather helpful for us.

For example, If I punched you in the face, you would determine that it was a bad thing for me to do. The aesthetics of pain, blood & bruising would indicate that the action of punching you comes from an unfavourable moral dimension. It would be an indicator of something gone wrong in the created order and we would likely conclude that the moral dimension that led to such an action is bad, because of the harmful outcome. If, for instance, I punched you in the face and you enjoyed it, that it was rather pleasant and had a positive effect, somehow, on the quality of your face and general wellbeing, we would conclude that punching was a good thing and was the expression of a noble moral dimension. And we might promote this as a healthy activity between human beings.

So, when we think about evolution and the social ills it’s responsible for, we can conclude that in the moral dimension it is not desirable since it leads to harmful practices. If it is not desirable in the moral dimension, then it is incompatible with the Bible. This is because what the Bible teaches us through its laws and ideas, in the moral dimension, leads us to express those ideas in ways that are aesthetically beautiful in their promotion of human flourishing. So, if we observe something in the aesthetic dimension which is contrary to what a Biblical worldview would produce, we can conclude that it is at fault in the moral dimension.

As I mentioned earlier, evolution and an old age of the earth are not problems in and of themselves. They are perfectly legitimate hypotheses. They are perfectly possible from a deist perspective. God could have done this. However, we conclude he did not since they produce evil outcomes. Their aesthetic expression is the antithesis of Christian aesthetic expression. And so it comes as no surprise to us when we see the link between evolution, old earth, and atheism. Again, evolution and old earth do not necessarily lead us to atheism. But in practise they do. Modern day atheism relies on both these things and the interdependent reliance of these three things should raise suspicions for us. And I know, atheism doesn’t need to go hand in hand with evolution or an old earth; plenty of legitimate Christians no doubt believe in those things also. But the combination we see, especially in the direct links this trio has to celebrated sinful practices, should raise concerns. These things are conceptual tools to remove God from the foundation of understanding in order to cultivate a new moral reality with subsequent aesthetic expression. Julian Huxley succinctly hints at why when he says “I suppose the reason we leaped at The Origin of Species was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual Mores”. Ken Ham also articulates well the evil which an evolutionary, old earth, atheism produces. You can read his article here: https://answersingenesis.org/creation-vs-evolution/the-evils-of-evolution/. All of these practices we would nearly all understand to be morally abhorrent, an abhorrence which can be discerned aesthetically.

It’s a bit like the duck test, isn’t it, really? You know: ​​If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. If it devalues human life like evil, opposes the idea of God like evil and turns God’s revelation into a lie like evil, then it must be evil.

Anyway, far from being a utilitarian argument, the ability to discern morals through aesthetics, though not a flawless method, is still a theological matter for Bible-believing Christians. We believe the Bible implies a necessary consistency between general revelation and special revelation. Therefore any operation within the created order that is inconsistent with special revelation is, by definition, false, as it would be a false revelation of the general kind. General revelation is not supposed to lie about God, either. The old earth, evolutionary, atheistic model tells lies about God.

Even though there is not necessarily a direct effect from the billions of years evolution idea on whether someone can be led to faith and repentance and salvation in Jesus, there could be (and as the Ken Ham article illustrates, there is one instance he knows of where it did). The correlation they have with atheism should be an alarm bell to us. Billions of years is therefore guilty by association. The guilty by association charge, granted, is only strong until new evidence provides an alibi, which is always possible. (And yes, this is slightly fictitious guilt if the earth is, in fact, not old). And I’m fully aware that I’m arguing from a philosophical perspective and that my arguments against the age of the earth in these last three posts are not the primary foundations on which to begin convincing someone it’s not old - the Bible is a primary source text which does lead us perfectly to understand that it’s not - these arguments do at least add just a little more weight onto the heap, in an attempt to show God to be true and every man a liar. The age of the earth won’t have much bearing on a Christian lifestyle. You can believe in an old earth and follow the ten commandments with duty and joy just fine. But because the age of the earth IS important to an evolution believing atheist, I would suggest that any serious thinker is at risk of compromise. By God’s grace, true believers do tend to exist quite successfully with this compromise as it’s not viewed as a compromise, but it absolutely could be and I’d argue should be. Because it is atheist doctrine. And I very much doubt that Christianity and atheism will ever share doctrine because, in the aesthetic dimension, the results are so, so different. In fact, if billions of years is atheist doctrine, should that not cause us to consider if the age of the earth at least has doctrinal implications for Christians? Maybe that’s stretching things. But the main point of these past three articles still stands, that the aesthetics of an old earth are all wrong. As I said last time, they won’t remain wrong. And These ideas of mine are subject to change. But for now, billions of years is an attack on God and his moral and natural laws - his special and general revelation.

Looks can be deceiving. But at the moment, billions of years do not look like they should. You can tell me I’m wrong when the Richard Dawkins memorial hospital opens.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Does God care what you look like? Part 1: Yes!

Does God care about the way we look? Does he care about our bodies, our hairstyles or our clothing? Does he care about tattoos or a wonky nose - or perhaps a scar or physical defect? In my church, we generally don't care about what people look like. Black, white, fat, thin, fashionable, unfashionable. How someone looks might be a very occasional point of interest, but generally speaking, what someone looks like will not have a significant influence on our judgement or value of a person. Heck, even I managed to get away with leading a Sunday service in shorts without getting so much as a raised eyebrow. Whilst the modern day, western, evangelical church scene will be keen to point out that there are more important things to worry about than what people look like - taking a sort of "man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart" approach - the rest of the world is obsessed with personal appearance. Beauty is big business and hot topic All you ha

The Importance of Plastic

What I like about philosophy is that you have an idea which you express in a certain way, according to the language you use, the words you know, the analogies you can think of, the categories you have defined, the context you exist in etc... But then you spot something, another idea, expressed rather differently and related to a different situation, yet somehow it seems eerily familiar. I love it when I see a conceptual crossover of ideas. I love Francis Schaeffer's 'line of despair' idea, I love Elaine Scarry's 'beauty makes copies of itself' idea and I love Piet Mondrian's 'plastic art' idea, to name but a few off the top of my head. It's quite reassuring and encouraging to find resonance in your own thinking with the ideas of great minds. But not necessarily surprising. God made the world to work a certain way, so why shouldn't people come up with similar ideas about how to interpret the material and spiritual universe? Anyway, I want to b

Jesus IS Ruling Well

Jesus IS Ruling Well As I was reflecting on 2020 and pondering the year ahead, a verse from Psalm 118 came to mind. As it turns out the whole Psalm is full of the type of wisdom that will help us all to reflect on a year we didn’t expect and will help us prepare for a year we can’t really predict. Psalm 118 offers us three things to remember about God, and then an appropriate response at the end. This little transcript is in no way an in-depth exegesis of the whole psalm - so full of glory as it is - but touches on the key points which are of most use to use for helping us get to grips with how God operates in the world. Point one: Remember that God is good The first thing we need to remember according to the psalm is that God is good . Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. That's how the psalm begins. Right from the off, the psalmist is establishing the innate goodness of God. It’s the premise of the rest of the psalm and good practice for us, to recognise that God is a good God