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Creation/Evolution, science

The Hourglass Analogy

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Skeptics will bite back normally with four problems with the above scenario.  First, how do we know we can trust the invisible writer of the note?  That’s a good question!  What this simple example fails to convey is that the writer’s note has been verified reliable with other corroborating evidence and we have no reason to doubt it.  (See our post on how the Bible is reliable: https://gracesalt.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/is-the-bible-really-reliable/ and also our full Biblical Authority section).

The second problem skeptics will level is that they do not just rely on radiometric dating, but also other methods like tree rings, ice cores, etc… and that they all corroborate the decay method.  What I could have added to my scenario is that there are also 10 other hourglasses of different designs in the room that corroborate the 12-hour conclusion, but the note says that the person also interrupted the process on those hourglasses equally – therefore we would expect them to align with the first one.

The third problem is probably the most common leveled argument against this scenario.  Doesn’t this make God deceptive?  If he created the world with built-in apparent age, then changed the way some things work during the curse, and changed and/or initiated many geologic processes during the year-long global flood – that would be misleading!  My response:  not if He told us He did it that way!  Yes, it would be deceiving if he turned those hourglasses over, made changes, and then never told us about it… but that’s not what happened.  WE decided the note he left us was unimportant in our science.

The final problem is: why would God just change the natural laws at a moment’s whim??  That is NOT what we are suggesting.  First, it wouldn’t be at a moment’s whim if He told us about it.  We are not in the blind about this.  It was fully revealed to us how/when/why this all occurred.  Second, we are not suggesting that laws whimsically change at any time.  Not that God can’t do that; just that it wasn’t necessarily needed to be done that way.  If God created the world with apparent age that doesn’t require changing any of the natural laws.  If God changed the way certain processes occur following original sin that wouldn’t require changing any of the natural laws.  And if the world reacted differently during the global flood than it does today, that also doesn’t require changing any of the natural laws.  We need to differentiate between processes working differently in the past vs. God changing laws on a whim.  We are not advocating that, nor is it necessary.  But we are promoting the idea that assuming things about the past based on how they work today is not final truth if we ignore the note in the room.

In conclusion, new evidence should change our conclusions.  You may see me as foolish for accepting the note on what you consider is blind faith, but I see you as foolish for overlooking it.  You are welcome to question, deny or ignore the evidence, but you are not allowed to criticize me for accepting it into my conclusions.


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17 thoughts on “The Hourglass Analogy

  1. Since the Bible says no such thing about radiometric or other dating methods, YECs are trying to make the Bible speak about ‘science’ in a way that it doesn’t. In my opinion.

    You are comparing an imaginary explicit note with unidentified implicit Bible verses that you assume speak of ‘an appearance of age’ or the falsification of uniformitarianism (those verses at 2 Peter 3 4-7 are mainly talking about a big future change ie another judgment of God, not about science such as geology). In my opinion.

    If mainstream science had found agreed methods that dated Earth as 6,000 years old maximum you would not be making these arguments about ‘disruption’ following the Curse, Flood and so forth. I don’t think. Thus you interpret verses according to prevailing scientific findings and to scientific preference – just like theistic evolutionists (though on a much smaller scale).

    Why does God give us dating methods that are ‘rubbish’?

    I made some points like the above here:

    Posted by Ashley Haworth-roberts | March 1, 2014, 1:50 am
  2. Or 1 Corinthians 1: 19? Yet YECs argue that there is something called ‘uniformity’ in nature such that science can be done at all (they pretend that a godless universe would be total chaos). Yet God also wants to frustrate the wise or intelligent (could that be scientists). Which scientists? All of them? All of them except creationist apologists who are deciding beforehand what conclusion they are looking for? And why? And lab-based science tends to work quite well these days, even though the scientists did not base eg medical procedures upon scripture.

    Posted by Ashley Haworth-roberts | March 1, 2014, 1:57 am
  3. This is an interesting analogy, but I think it quickly breaks down when one begins to consider chronometric techniques in a bit more detail. Most importantly, it is possible to measure the amount of sand in the top of the hourglass when it was flipped over by looking at other, non-radiometric, daughter isotopes. That’s a fairly dense sentence, hopefully an example will clear things up:

    Argon-Argon dating measures the decay of one isotope of argon to another; then using the ratio to calculate how long the decay has been happening. It’s your classic radiometric dating technique. However, those aren’t the only 2 isotopes of argon. There is another which is stable (it doesn’t decay), so it doesn’t change over time. As such it provides a measurement of the absolute amount of Argon in the rock. If it started off with extra Argon, or if contamination introduced extra Argon (both of which would make the rock appear older than it actually was) there should be more of this stable isotope than we would expect based on the amount of the two others.

    Another problem with the analogy is that it trivialises the YEC position. You’ve probably heard the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The notion of a transdimensional super-being creating earth is certainly an extraordinary claim, but a bloke turning over an hourglass is not. As such I think the claim in the analogy needs to be extraordinary-fied a bit. Perhaps the note would read “I turned over the hourglass 4 hours ago using magic”.

    Problems with the analogy aside, I also think there’s an issue with using “God created the earth with the appearance of age” to explain away the various chronometric methods. A good pragmatic argument can be made for why things would have to be old at creation. If all the plants were seeds, all the animals would starve. If Adam was a newborn he could not feed himself etc. But there’s no pragmatic reason for introducing isotopes and stuff into rocks so as to give them all consistent dates when examined with radiometric techniques. You can have a rock that looks like it was formed millions of years ago in a volcano and functions perfectly well as a rock with no Argon in. So why add some? Why add the isotopes in such a ratio to make it consistent with a 4.5 billion year old earth?

    Here’s an analogy of my own: Your teeth grow in layers. The growth rate is variable, so it can’t be used to age you like tree rings but they do provide a good record of diet. Major changes in nutrition influence the growth rate of the rings, making them extra thick or thin. The biggest change in nutrition people go through is when they’re weaned; so everyone has a very anomalous ring from this point in their lives.

    Would Adam have been created with such a ring? It serves no function and adds nothing to the appearance of age, save confusing anyone who were to examine his teeth under a microscope. Imagine if someone found his skeleton, but nobody believed it was the Adam because it had a ring which showed he was weaned and so people believed he had a normal childhood. You’re argument about isotopes and “created old” is effectively this.

    Posted by Adam Benton | March 1, 2014, 10:39 am
    • Perhaps that anomalous ring serves another purpose we are not aware of yet. You see, you are assuming we know everything there is to know about tooth growth. You are also assuming about the stable Argon element. How do you know radioactive decay didn’t even begin until after the curse? I’m not arguing that specifically, I’m just trying to show how our assumption play into this soooo much. We can’t say – well it was created with that much in it, we just simply don’t know when that process initiated or how. We only know how it works TODAY.

      Now, keep in mind I am not saying the conclusions of mainstream scientists aren’t logical. I understand their conclusions. They do make sense in a purely natural framework. I’m not calling them stupid or anything like that. They do good work, I just happen to believe it is incomplete.

      Posted by Tim | March 1, 2014, 2:40 pm
  4. “Perhaps that anomalous ring serves another purpose we are not aware of yet.” Glad to hear a YEC admit he doesn’t have an answer.

    Posted by Ashley Haworth-roberts | March 1, 2014, 11:14 pm

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