Truth Hurts

I defend my parents’ decision; they did the best they could. It is not their fault that the people they trusted turned out to be liars.

To understand my struggle, let me explain a little bit about my upbringing. I grew up in small Texas towns, the sort of small towns people like to idealize as great places to raise a family. In many ways, they were: we knew lots of people, we had extended family nearby, we felt safe enough to play in nearby parks and explore our neighborhood unsupervised. But these towns aren’t usually known for academic achievement. The high schools in the towns I grew up in excelled in producing two things: teen pregnancy and teen alcoholism. My parents wanted my sister and me to get an education, so they opted to homeschool us.

Let me hasten to add, I am very glad I was homeschooled. I credit my parents with my love of learning, my independence in seeking answers for myself, and my devotion to reading. I don’t want to call any of that into question.

From a very young age, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I loved them. I loved their difficult names, their strange bones, their gigantic sizes. When Jurassic Park came out, I was the happiest 11-year-old on the planet. This caused a problem. Dinosaurs were clearly in the realm of evolution, something my culture was very much opposed to. However, instead of squelching my interests, my parents researched until they found information about dinosaurs from a source they felt they could trust: the Institute for Creation Research. Keep in mind, this was before the Internet; it was harder to find out who was a reliable source of information, and even harder to find scientific or religious sources that didn’t immediately dismiss each other. A conservative Christian organization that offered dinosaur science? It seemed perfect.

We heard all the stories about how ICR speakers had won debates so often that evolutionists would no longer debate them. We learned about how carbon dating wasn’t reliable. We read all the ICR books and pamphlets we could get our hands on. I don’t know how much money my parents spent trying to feed my dinosaur habit, but it was a lot. We didn’t have much to spare in those days, and I appreciated every bit of it.

I went to a conservative college where this basic viewpoint was never really challenged, even though many on staff didn’t subscribe to young-earth creationism. My professors encouraged me to think about many questions and issues, but few if any were specifically scientific. I continued to assert that the Earth must be a fairly recent creation.

What began to change my mind in this regard? Space.

I had always been interested in space, in a general way. My family had a small telescope, and my mom always woke us up to go out and see meteor showers. Seeing comet Hale-Bopp, undimmed by city lights, was a truly life-changing moment for me. But I didn’t really pursue that knowledge actively until NASA joined Twitter. I discovered the Phoenix account in late 2008, just as the lander was shutting down. I followed every NASA account I could find. I went to the first NASA Tweetup at JPL. I started talking astronomy and space exploration with people of all backgrounds from around the world. And something began to change.

I began to see that the universe was incredibly large, and was expanding all the time. All of our instruments and methods of detection tell us that the light that reaches us from across the universe has been travelling for a very long time to reach us. And most of it has taken much, much longer than 6,000 years to reach us. This posed a problem. Either all of our instruments and methods are wrong about the size of the universe and the speed of light, or God created a world with an “appearance of age” so persuasive as to be downright deceptive, or the universe really was billions of years old.

I saw no reason for all of the methods and instruments to be wrong; it was possible, strictly speaking, but not likely. And I couldn’t believe that a God who was the source of truth would have created a world designed to trick us so thoroughly. I finally admitted to myself that I could no longer believe in the origins of the universe as they had been taught me.

Bit by bit, I began to learn uncomfortable things about the people I’d grown up reading. Their invitations to debates weren’t denied out of fear of their evidence, but because they refused to hold to honest debate techniques. Much of their scientific evidence was dubious, at best. Stories of dinosaurs living into relatively modern times were altered from their original sources, accepted uncritically from unreliable narratives, or simply made up. The science was not rigorous, and would not hold up to scrutiny. I had to discard either the views I had invested so much in, or my intellectual honesty.

It’s hard to explain the pain that came from that change. I know good, intelligent people who still believe the universe is very young. I respect them, and I want them to respect me. I had been told all my life that evolutionary theory was the first step in losing one’s faith. I don’t intend to lose my faith, unless I become completely convinced that it simply is not true. But the old fears still sneak up on me: what if I’ve changed my views just to fit in with my friends in the scientific community? What if I’m betraying my faith? These things can plague me in the dark hours of the night. I hear friends mock the views of the atheist and skeptic community, and I’m afraid to admit the areas in which I agree with them. I know many good people who eschew all religious belief; they are moral, generous, caring people.

But the other side of it pulls at me, too. I have many atheist friends, friends whose good opinion I treasure. When I hear some of them mock the intellectual capabilities of the people I used to agree with, it hurts. I know many of the people being ridiculed are intelligent, caring people, and do not deserve such mockery. I know they would find many of my current beliefs laughable, and I worry that I will make changes based on social acceptability rather than real thought.

One thing I do know: truth is more important than my concept of God. I must not sacrifice what I know to be true to what I think God might be. Whoever or whatever God is, He must be the source of truth or He is not worth following.

Regardless of the outcome, this struggle is well worth the effort. There is no greater quest in human history than the search to know. From our earliest days of hunting and gathering, to the dialogues of Plato, to the Industrial Revolution, we’ve sought to figure out how the world works, and what our place is in it. My struggle is just a tiny part of that bigger quest.

I’m still navigating through this maze. I hope I can retain my friendships with both of my communities. But if not, I hope I have the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads. I can forgive simple error, but I will have no part of any argument that is built on a conscious lie, or a refusal to examine evidence. I don’t know where this search will take me; if I did, it wouldn’t be honest inquiry. The things I previously accepted must be held up and examined; the same must be done for new arguments and ideas. It won’t be comfortable, but it will, at least, be honest.

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7 Comments

  1. First, may I tell you how much I admire your courage, both in following the good sense G-d gave you, and then in writing this?

    Dr. Francesco Ayala, an ordained Dominican priest who is an evolutionary biologist at UCI, has this opinion. Science and religion ask different questions about the universe, and offer different types of information. Scientific inquiry can tell us the age of the universe, the history of our planet, and the way things work. But only faith can tell us why that universe was created or what our individual lives mean.

    Love you, Joi.

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  3. If you start with astronomy, assuming the speed of light and red shift, and you test scripture by it, no doubt you’ll be convinced that Genesis is false. That is their best evidence. With a strong argument, you need to have a strong counter argument. So let me give you just a few evidences that show that the earth is not old.

    1. The sun actually shoots little bits of things out as it burns. Light isn’t without mass. As they do the calculations, it would have to have collected a lot of material in order to have been burning for that long. And there isn’t that much debris in space. Light from stars still reach us. They are not caught behind the clouds of dirt in the far off places.

    2. The horizon problem.

    3. Stars could never have formed. The moon is a huge mass, and even it can’t hold gases to its surface. The way gravity works, it gets exponentially weaker as you get further away. To overcome the tendency for gasses to expand, you’d need a really big gravitational field. You have to remember that the initial H atoms were shooting off in every direction at speeds that could never be overcome by gravity. If a supernatural force is required, might as well go with the revealed one, which says that God stretches out the heavens. (That’s not deceptive.)

    But astronomy isn’t the best evidence. The best evidence is historical.

    1. There are genealogies from Noah to the kings of Europe. (After the Flood, Bill Cooper – free online)

    2. Josephus records the start of the nations surrounding Israel. He has the names of their kings and patriarchs and how they are genetically connected to the greater population.

    3. Pagan gods were mortal men, deified by their subjects and descendants. (From Noah to Hercules) If you can’t see the point of me saying that, let me know. I’ve been thinking on this stuff for a while, and it seems obvious to me after all these years.

    Of course, I could go on for days, but if those aren’t at least interesting to you, I may not have anything that will be. We often choose our positions. All the pleading in the world isn’t going to convince my son that he actually likes bananas. “It’s our choices, Harry, that make us who we are…” ~ Dumbledore

    • Using genealogies to try and date Earth is like using carbon dating to show that most Bibles are only 10 years old, so therefore not accurate. You’re using an unrelated system. Doesn’t work that way.

      And…I’m quite sure you do not understand how gravity works. Nothing’s wrong with that, it’s a difficult concept, but you should probably stop telling others how you think it works. Your science is not very scientifically based.

      Personally, I am a Christian that believes in science and God. I find it ridiculous that any limited mortal being could possibly encapsulate the entirety of an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent being in their philosophy. That reeks of vanity to me.

      I love that science, the ability to observe what we know of the universe, and learn from it, works. It’s one heck of a gift. I dislike it when people try to tell God how He made the universe. Pretty sure He knows what He’s doing better than any of us.

      Enjoy your view. Doesn’t change much for you to have it. I’m glad you find solace in it. But it’s really bad to imitate science for an argument.

      • OsakaJack: I got the argument about gravity from a PhD in physics. I used it for a little while, and I asked another PhD in Astrophysics if it was a valid argument, and he said yes. Gravity may be complex, but it’s a very simple formula. I know that much math. There’s an exponent in the denominator. That means if you’re an inch away, the pull is exponentially greater than if you’re two inches away. If the light broke away from the singularity, it has to be going very fast. If it was an explosion, there has to be a lot of heat. The gravity to pull those superheated atoms together would have to be huge. You can say it’s a stupid argument all day, but you haven’t demonstrated that it is.

        As a Christian, you should have no problem accepting the testimony of Moses. Jesus did. I love science too. It’s not a matter of observation, but faith. Trusting what the prophets said. I’d rather be guilty of trusting God’s prophet than some arrogant Astronomer.

        Joi: I don’t think you looked at the genealogies. It’s not just one or two there, but dozens of corroborating names. It’s not just one line, but they diverge in a way you’d expect. If you read the book that I recommended, you’d see, as with all books from that time, that the idea of oral traditions is preposterous. They had people who understood the art of writing from the beginning. What’s more, when some culture didn’t have writing, they came up with their own system. There are several unrelated systems that all sprung up within a thousand years of each other. And with a 50-200k year humanity, that’s pretty coincidental. I believe you’ll find that there is NO evidence for humans past four thousand years or so. Anything older is inferred by the layering of dirt or C14 dating, which doesn’t work unless it’s calibrated to something in history. You can’t reasonably extrapolate with radiometric dating.

        I know that the god / man connection doesn’t convince everyone. It takes a minute to explain it. It answers why we have pagan religion (an important question). If you look at the tenants of Paganism, understand the stories of their gods, you find that they were the firsts. They married their sisters. They lived forever (read hundreds of years). And it was common in the culture to deify their kings and patriarchs. They named the nations after their kings and patriarchs. The priests of the temples of the time (as related by Herodotus and others) had the stories of how their religious system was set up. They were men. Which means the foundations of pagan religion were from real people with flowery stories. They were the first people (if you accept the stories). And they had people descended from them, whose genealogies were written down. People in history could trace their lineage to Woden, for instance, or Hercules. I’m not grinding an axe. It’s relevant to the history and age of the Earth. I found it to be a convincing argument, or I would have left it out. Actually, what Isaac Newton said about that time in history was very interesting and very convincing.

  4. Genealogies, even assuming them to be perfectly objective and accurate (a huge and unfounded assumption, at best), could only give you the length of time of human civilization. And even then, only of civilization that had an oral or written tradition, capable of passing down information between generations. Genealogies are categorically incapable of saying anything about the age of the earth, much less the age of the universe.

    I have no idea what point you’re trying to make with your mention of pagan gods, as nothing of the kind was mentioned in this entire blog post. If you have an ax to grind about that topic, this is not the place to do it.

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