WHY IT IS HARD FOR CREATIONISTS TO ACCEPT NEW IDEAS, WITH REFERENCE TO THE SETTERFIELD SPEED OF LIGHT RESEARCH
Aside from the fact that people in general are resistant to
change, there is a marked additional hesitancy in creationist
circles to accept new concepts, even though they might support
the creationist position. I think there are a number of reasons
for this which need to be considered.
First, and maybe most important, really, is the deep desire to not embarrass the name of God or the Christian position. Despite the fact that there are a good many creationists who are NOT Christians (Jewish, Muslim, American Indian, and others), "creationism" is seen by the world at large as a Christian paradigm. For this reason the formal institutions are understandably hesitant to back ideas that seem a bit radical or demand too much of a change from current positions. If the ideas prove false it does not just reflect on the science, but on Christianity itself, for better or for worse. The fact that it is the people who make the mistakes, and not God, does not matter to those who do not believe in God. They see faults in creation science as being "proofs" that Christianity is wrong and/or that God Himself is a figment of some men's imaginations.
Most Christians are not scientists, and even those who are find themselves specialized enough that work in other fields goes largely unknown by them. Therefore the vast majority of the faithful find themselves relying largely or wholly on the institutions such as Answers in Genesis or Institute of Creation Research for analysis of material beyond their grasp. Work such as Setterfield's in the speed of light is definitely beyond the grasp of most people. So the stand that these organizations take will influence a good segment of the creationist population. This does not rule out the fact that these organizations are made up of people just as fallible as anyone else and can make mistakes. What is difficult about mistakes made by organizations, however, is that they are harder to back out of than individual mistakes. Not only individual pride, but the reputations of these places is, or can be, at stake. They know that people depend on them and they want to stay reputable. What they write, people will believe.
A second point involves the fact that most people have received a public school education, promoting evolution as fact. So they find themselves, when opting for the creationist position, distrusting science in general. Scientists like Setterfield are thus in a sticky position. They are scientists of the highest sort, digging into material and data, studying, altering original thoughts as new material is found... they thus align themselves with "science." In the case of the material concerning the speed of light, not just "science," but quantum mechanics and other impossible-to-understand-and-therefore-it's-probably-not-true ideas. This, in conjunction with the understandable and often commendable conservatism of the established creation institutions can present a double-whammy to creation scientists who are presenting new ideas.
My last point concerns fear. Most people who consider themselves
Christian still place more faith in man than in God: faith in
what a pastor says, or a teacher says, or a book (not the Bible)
says. People like Setterfield, quite simply, shake up the entire
universe in terms of what is known and supposed. One cannot
do that with people who prefer trusting people and have them
react kindly. It takes a great deal of faith in God Himself and a relationship with Him to be able to have the entire universe rearranged mentally!
Consider, as well, the material presented by many of the creationist popularizers. It is dynamic, forcefully presented, and easy to understand. Unfortunately, it is also often incomplete, outdated, and sometimes just plain wrong. But compared to the actual scientific material, it is much more clear and easy to grasp. We live in the television age where all gets resolved in an hour or half an hour with time out for commercial breaks. Most people are not willing to consider that real science does not operate that way, and so they will swing easily to the arguments presented by the popularizers without giving much thought to the reality of question marks.
And that's just the creation side.
On the evolution side, the concept of an ongoing change in the speed of light means radiometric dating is not at all accurate in orbital years and thus THEIR entire paradigm is put at risk. And this is not to mention the entire concept of evolution, which depends on vast amounts of time as well as impossible biological functions to operate.
Now, when the secular journals start presenting some of what a creationist has worked on, which has been rejected by the vast majority of the creation camp, there is an additional problem involved. If the secular world of science is starting to look at it seriously before the creation world is willing to reconsider, the material suddenly becomes suspect for that reason as well. This is because the secular world of science tends to be so evolution-oriented that much of what is presented from their point of view can be faulty by omission -- not all the data is given; not all the truth is spoken. The public tends to be very aware of this now. So when material concerning something like the possible non-constancy of the speed of light is picked up by secular science after being rejected by creation science, there is a tendency in the creation camp to consider the material with double suspicion rather than with renewed interest.
It's an interesting problem, and definitely a difficult one to work with. Here again the only real recourse is God Himself: the trust and the knowledge that He will bring forth the truth in His time using those men and women on either side who are more interested in the truth than in reigning paradigms or accepted models. Man's knowledge is finite. We should expect change in our concepts and ideas. For a Christian, as long as those concepts and ideas fit within the established parameters God clearly sets forth in His Word, the new material should be looked at seriously and closely. When it is presented, let us expect it to be presented with solid data and logic behind it, however. It is on this basis that new ideas and material should be both presented and evaluated, no matter how difficult they may seem to accept initially.
Helen Fryman, January 15, 2000
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