There is a great article on the Creation Ministries International website called “Why Young-Age Creationism Is Good for Science.” The author (Brent W. Smith) makes some excellent points, so I would like to summarize what he says and then add one thought. You can tell Mr. Smith is a philosopher by how he summarizes his argument:
The basic idea is that [young-age creationists] offer to the current origins science establishment a competing rational viewpoint that will augment fruitful scientific investigation through increased accountability for scientists, introduction of original hypotheses, and general epistemic improvement.
If you don’t know what “epistemic improvement” means, you just need to know that epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and limitations of knowledge. It attempts to understand how we know things, how knowledge is acquired, and what knowledge actually is. Thus, in this case, “epistemic improvement” means an improvement in our understanding of what we can know through scientific inquiry.
Obviously, young-earth creationism will improve the epistemology of science, because it continually argues with the establishment about what we can learn from scientific data. For example, the fact that soft tissue has been found in fossils that are supposedly millions of years old can lead us to make one of (at least) two different conclusions: (1) Soft tissue can be preserved over time periods previously not thought possible or (2) The fossils aren’t really millions of years old. Those who believe in a billions-of-years old earth tend to support option (1), and young-earth scientists tend to support option (2). Each side tends to look for data that support its position.
If it weren’t for young-earth creationists, option (2) would not be considered. Thus, scientists would assume that option (1) is what we can learn from the data, and they would go on their merry way, never wondering if the data could mean something else. Young-earth creationists, however, will collect data to try to support their position, which will at least allow for some evaluation of what we can learn from the fact that soft tissue has been found in these fossils. If option (1) ends up being correct, then at minimum, there has been an evaluation of what this fact tells us rather than just an assumption of what it means. If option (2) ends up being correct, then a long-running mistake in science will be fixed. Either way, science wins!
In his article, Smith gives an example of how a young-earth scientist has helped to improve science within his field. Young-earth paleontologist Leonard Brand studied fossil footprints in a geological formation in Arizona. He interpreted them in the context of Flood Geology and decided that they were best understood in the context of animals trying to escape rising floodwaters. As a result, he did careful experiments that demonstrated that the footprints were most likely made while the animals’ feet were underwater. This was a shock to paleontologists worldwide, as it had always been assumed that those footprints were made in dry sand.
Now whether or not you believe in Flood Geology, you have to admit that it is nice when scientific mistakes are fixed. Thus, even if you think Flood Geology is nonsensical, it was used to correct a long-standing mistake about footprints in a particular geological formation. At least in this specific case, then, a young-earth theory (Flood Geology) helped science.
Smith lists several other specific cases of where young-earth creationists have done groundbreaking research that casts doubt on other strongly-held beliefs in science. Now, if these researchers end up being right, other scientific mistakes will be fixed. However, even if the researchers are shown to be wrong, science will still benefit. If nothing else, those strongly-held beliefs will be more solidly confirmed, because they will have survived what was thought to be adversarial data. Either way, science wins!
So the article is definitely worth a read, since it truly does show how young-earth creationism actually benefits science, regardless of what people who don’t like science say about it. I do want to add something, however. As a science educator, I can conclude that young-earth creationism will aid science in another way. It will produce a lot of well-qualified scientists who will continue to learn more about the world around us.
Why do I think young-earth creationism will produce these scientists? Because it already has! As I have pointed out previously, students who use my textbooks (which are written from a young-earth creationist view) are wildly successful in university-level science courses. Many of them are already working in the sciences, and some are still studying for advanced scientific degrees. In the end, the fact that these students are so successful in the sciences indicates that there is a benefit to at least some forms of young-earth creationist education.
There is something else, however. I generally get two kinds of E-MAILs and letters thanking me for my textbooks. The ones I like the most are those I mentioned above – they come from students who have used my books and are incredibly successful at university-level science. However, I actually get more E-MAILs and letters telling me that my books have changed students from “science haters” into “science lovers.”
Several of the students who have written to tell me about their change in perspective specifically mention that they like how my books challenge notions that other science books simply take for granted. This makes the science a lot more interesting to the student, and it helps the student learn that he or she should evaluate all scientific positions – regardless of what the “scientific consensus” is. What’s wonderful about this is it produces students who love science and learn to question everything – and that’s just what science needs to continue to improve.
So whether we are talking about scientific research or science education, young-earth creationism is good for science. It’s just unfortunate that there are so many science-haters out there who think otherwise.