Jesus, no. They can’t do this to me. Can a creationist say something so ironic, so oblivious, so un-selfaware, so stupid that my head might explode? Danny Faulkner comes very close. He’s a young earth creationist associated with Answers in Genesis, he was ponderously featured in Eric Hovind’s creation movie, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy.
He thinks the Earth is less than ten thousand years old, and that the Big Bang is bunk, but he is also confident that the Earth is a sphere, and he patiently explains how flat-earth dogma is wrong. He is very concerned about the flat-earth movement, and tries to explain why they are wrong.
Flat-earthers raise an excellent epistemological question: how do we know what shape is the earth? For three decades, I asked this very question of students in the first semester of my introductory astronomy class. The context of this question was the early history of astronomy. I would ask my students what shape they thought the earth had. All my students would answer that the earth was a sphere. I retired from the university more than six years ago, just about the time the modern flat-earth movement was starting, so I expect that if I were teaching classes now, I frequently would encounter students who think that the earth is flat. When I asked my students how they knew the earth was a globe, not one student could give me a good reason.
Aww, the ignorance of students concerns him. Me, too. I’m not retired, I still engage with students, and I can say that I’ve never met one who thinks the Earth is flat, but I’ve met more than a few who think the Earth is young. I was not prepared for the degree of irony to come, though.
…few students ever develop proper critical thinking skills. When someone comes along with a few arguments for the earth being flat, most people have absolutely no knowledge or resources to counter them. Flat-earthers, for example, typically testify that when they first heard about the earth being flat, they thought it was the dumbest thing that they ever heard. The soon-to-be converts thought that they easily could disprove that the earth was flat, but they quickly realized that they couldn’t. Perhaps out of frustration, they finally concluded that the earth must be flat. It never occurred to them that perhaps their education had failed them in not better preparing them for refuting the notion that the earth is flat.
Just as an exercise, reread that paragraph, but change the word “flat” to “young”. It stops being a description of students, and instead is an indictment of…Danny Faulkner.
Keep going. Keep changing “flat” to “young”. It’s amazing.
There is an important difference between gossip and flat-earth cosmology. Mere gossip rarely is life-changing (except perhaps for the poor victim of gossip). But if one becomes convinced that the earth is flat rather than being spherical, that is a major change in one’s worldview. If the earth truly is flat, then we have been lied to about the earth’s shape our entire lives. One must ask how and why this lie was created and perpetuated. Ultimately, this line of thinking leads to the conclusion that there must be a vast conspiracy about the earth’s shape that has been going on for a long time (since the time of Columbus in most flat-earthers’ estimation, since they generally subscribe to the Columbus mythology). And coming to believe that a vast conspiracy is responsible is a relatively small step for most flat-earthers, because, by definition, a conspiracy is a secret knowledge, and the allure of secret knowledge generally was a major factor that led them into flat-earth belief in the first place. The thirst for secret knowledge is why so many people find belief in all sorts of conspiracies so appealing.
We’re not done yet. Let us look at the Bible through this lens.
In their new-found fervor, flat-earthers often become very bold. Flat-earth Christians think they have found cosmological truth in the Bible, and they aren’t about to let anyone dissuade them from this belief. It doesn’t matter that until very recently virtually no one within the church saw the Bible as teaching that the earth is flat.
Has Danny Faulkner read Danny Faulkner’s testimony?
I had never given much thought about what I would do with my life, though I had always loved astronomy. Almost immediately after my rededication, I came to realize three things: that one could make a living doing astronomy, that I had the ability to do that, and that I believed God had called me to do this. About this time I read The Bible and Modern Science, by Henry M Morris. This was the first book of his that I read, and I’d eventually read many more. A year or two earlier I had read two books that taught day-age and probably even theistic evolution. I realized that what these books espoused was a bit different from what I had understood the Bible to mean, but I respected these men and thought that they probably were right. But I quickly saw that what Henry Morris wrote made much more sense biblically, so I immediately became a recent creationist.
Four decades ago, I learned a valuable lesson from a Bible professor from whom I took two semesters of Pauline epistles. He said that if you see something in a passage that no one else has seen before, there’s probably a very good reason: it isn’t there.
Until very recently, no one within the church saw the Bible as teaching that the Earth is 6000 years old. The day-age explanation he mentions, as well as the gap theory, were more common among educated theologians a hundred years ago, and in fact protestant churches were interested in reconciling the Bible with the science of geology. The Catholic church even today is just fine with the Earth being ancient. There was a trickle of a strain of belief over the last few hundred years (thanks, Archbishop Ussher), but no one saw the Bible as explicitly setting a date for geological events.
That is, until Whitcomb and Morris stole some prophecy from the Seventh Day Adventists and published The Genesis Flood in 1961, claiming to see something in the Bible that no one else had seen before.
Faulkner just charges on, completely unaware that he’s talking to a mirror.
Some flat-earthers also fashion themselves to be experts on science and the methodology of science. Consequently, they think of themselves as competent to dictate to scientists, both godly and ungodly, on how science ought to be conducted. But their definitions and practice of science appear to be formulated to make science as generally understood impossible.
Where do these flat-earthers get the notion that they are capable of rewriting so many disciplines of study? This is particularly galling when one considers the limited science education that most flat-earthers seem to have achieved.
OMG. I am so done here. I refuse to explode, though, because this is the only fate appropriate to Mr Faulkner.