I ran across a fascinating article today. The article discusses "Thousands, Not Billions," a new conference coordinated by ICR (Institute for Creation Research).

The purpose of the conference, simply enough, is to challenge the commonly accepted conclusions of scientific research which indicate that the universe is billions of years old, and that evolution is an accurate paradigm through which to describe the development of biological life on earth.
To substantiate this "challenge," ICR commissioned its own scientists to conduct research to find proof for a 6,000 year-old earth.

Although I have some strong feelings about it, I will not spend time commenting on the merits of ICR's "scientists," nor of the methodology they employ to arrive at their conclusions (which, interestingly enough, are presupposed). However, I would like to simply outline some thoughts I have on the issues raised in this article, in general.

First of all, let me frame the issue. ICR's website outlines their mission as follows:

We believe God has raised up [Institute for Creation Research] to spearhead biblical Christianity's defense against godless and compromising dogma of evolutionary humanism.
Clearly, ICR believes that not only is evolutionary theory illegitimate, but moreover they make it a soteriological issue. In other words, if one happens to believe that life developed through the mechanism of evolution, one cannot possibly be a Christian. Or at least not a "biblical Christian." Rather, to the ICR, affirming the findings of modern science is tantamount to compromising the faith, and aligning oneself with the "godless."

Not content simply to base the argument on the "authority" of Scripture, the ICR presses the envelope farther:

Only by showing the scientific bankruptcy of evolution, while exalting Christ and the Bible will Christians be successful in 'the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ' (II Corinthians 10:4, 5) [emphasis added]

Here, again, it is clear to see that the scientific merits of evolutionary theory are rejected. However, ICR proceeds to assert that part of their mission to "spearhead Christianity's defense" is to not simply to make claims based upon interpretation, but moreover to provide alternative scientific proof that will undermine evolutionary theory and establish their understanding of the biblical view of creation.

To be blunt, I have serious problems with this.

First, such an approach, in my understanding, represents a dysfunctional understanding of the nature of the Scriptures and their role in the process of forming, shaping and in-forming belief. To the ICR, it seems that Scriptures are practically deified, propped up as a repository of absolute, infallible truth, not only of the theological variety, but of the scientific/historical flavor as well.

Larry Vardiman, a scientist of ICR, reflects this idea: "Even most Christians believe the Earth has been around for millions or even billions of years and that the Bible really isn't accurate when it talks about when God created the Earth." By making the Scriptures an object of verifiable historical/scientific fact, the ICR has actually created the very problem they seek to overcome. An historical/scientific interpretations of a 6,000 year-old earth is only necessary when one assumes that the Scriptures are intended to communicate this kind of language. By presupposing that the Scriptures are providing this kind of information, the ICR has opened the Scriptures to the messy sea of verifiability. The largest problem with this, of course, is that if one has asserted that the Scriptures are a reservoir of "infallible" historical/scientific truth, and then this "truth" is overturned conclusively by other facts, one is left in a very precarious position. The only recourse will be 1.) To deny the legitimacy of that which has overturned the Scriptures as an historical/scientific source book or 2.) Discover/Manufacture contrary evidence. In the final analysis, by asserting that the Scriptures are authoritative in matters of science/critical history, one has, ultimately, introduced the possibility that the Scriptures can be overturned/disproved by these very same sources. As the Scriptures are clearly not meant to provide this kind of information, in a head-to-head battle with scientific methodology, the Scriptures will always lose.

Although the issue noted above is a serious one, I think what follows is an even more devious consequence of ICR's approach. As noted above, ICR is not content to simply ignore the conclusions of scientific methodology–rather, they are taking the fight "to the streets," gathering their own scientists to establish their own evidence concerning origins.

Before continuing, let me add a caveat. I am not advocating that scientific methodology should be left unquestioned. As with all things, an unchecked authority will always develop into a hegemony that totalitarily establishes "truth." There is, no doubt, a definite danger that this could occur with scientific methodology, and one's approach to the findings of scientific methodology should assuredly not be blind acquiescence.

With this said, however, ICR's perspective of scientific methodology, especially in relation to the claims of evolutionary theory, almost assumes the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists. Evolutionary theory, and its adherents and proponents, are characterized as "godless compromisers" who have rejected the truth of God and are blinded by sin and the powers of evil. Given this level of rhetoric, it is difficult to believe that ICR's approach is credible.

However, the biggest problem is that ICR is asserting that its conclusions are real "science." While I am no scientist, it is not difficult to see the clear presuppositional biases being fleshed out in ICR's scientist's conclusions.

The most unfortunate consequence of this kind of "scientific" inquiry, however, is what it produces in the field of knowledge. While science is far from objective, objectivity is the ideal, and the principles which drive scientific research involve the well-known tenets of observation, measurement and replication, as well as the criterion of peer-review. None of these crucial elements have attained in ICR's approach. Rather, a presupposition has been proposed, and manpower amassed to set out to substantiate it through "research." This approach is completely antithetical to scientific methodology. So while ICR wishes to overcome the findings of modern science through science itself, ICR actually develops an entirely new paradigm for scientific research, one based on amassing proof as opposed to description. In effect, ICR's approach reveals the commodification of scientific inquiry, in which PhD's can be bought and commissioned to lend weight to a particular viewpoint. Unfortunately, lost in the mix of presuppositional proof-texting is any meaningful description and application the issues under consideration.