Thus, by any reasonable standard, Young Earth Creationism has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy, both in its science and in its theology. Its persistence is thus one of the great puzzles and great tragedies of our time. By attacking the fundamentals of virtually every branch of science, it widens the chasm between the scientific and spiritual worldviews, just at a time where a pathway toward harmony is desperately needed. By sending a message to young people that science is dangerous, and that pursuing science may well mean rejecting religious faith, Young Earth Creationism may be depriving science of some of its most promising future talents.I wish I'd said that.
But it is not science that suffers most here. Young Earth Creationism does even more damage to faith, by demanding that belief in God requires assent to fundamentally flawed claims about the natural world. Young people brought up in homes and churches that insist on Creationism sooner or later encounter the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of an ancient universe and the relatedness of all living things through the process of evolution and natural selection. What a terrible and unnecessary choice they then face! To adhere to the faith of their childhood, they are required to reject a broad and rigorous body of scientific data, effectively committing intellectual suicide. Presented with no other alternative than Creationism, is it any wonder that many of these young people turn away from faith, concluding that they simply cannot believe in a God who would ask them to reject what science has so compellingly taught us about the natural world?
Francis Collins. The Language of God
But what is not clear, and Francis Collins' book does nothing to clarify it, is how exactly are these unfortunate victims of childhood indoctrination to know which parts of the Bible they should accept as literally true and which are merely allegorical and not to be taken literally? For example, if one rejects the account in Genesis of a six-day creation, and the account of the lives of the descendants of Adam and Eve to Noah and beyond, upon which the claimed young age of earth is based, why does one not also reject the account of original sin, the fall of Man and of the need for forgiveness and redemption upon which the entire Christian faith depends and upon which the entire rationale for Jesus's sacrifice is supposedly based? What in these stories distinguishes one from the other with sufficient reason to reject one and accept the other?
The only basis, and the one upon which Francis Collins appears to have relied, is his knowledge of reality acquired entirely by scientific methodology, which tells him the six-day creation and young earth theory must be wrong because the evidence is so heavily stacked against it. Given the choice here between faith and evidence, Collins goes with the evidence because he knows evidence trumps faith.
Where is the evidence upon which we can decide that the story of the Fall of Man and so the claimed need for Jesus to save us, is not also myth? Certainly, there is nothing in the Bible itself. This decision can only be made by reference to some external basis for judgements.
The question is, if you read any other book of myths which contained obvious errors, falsehoods, and demonstrably wrong accounts of history and science, why would you believe any of it in the absence of any supporting evidence? If you do, why not believe other creation myths or the holy books of other faiths?
More importantly, why not reject the Bible with the same confidence and using the same judgements you use to reject all the other mythologies?
At the beginning of the 19th century, very few people in the Christian world doubted the literal truth of Creation and a young earth. There was no doubt at all in most people's minds that the Bible was the literal, inerrant truth and a statement of historical fact. Even those few enlightened people like Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson could see no alternative but to believe in a creator. Since then, religion had been in retreat as one gap after another has been closed and God has been evicted from them.
Collins' rationalization of rejecting almost all of the biblical claims where science has closed these gaps, yet clinging to those few where the gaps have not yet been fully closed is nothing more than an attempt to cling to an outmoded, redundant and primitive attempt to explain the world by people who believed that magic was the best available explanation. Simple people whose understanding of the universe was so poor they believe earth was flat, that the sun orbited round it and that earth could be flooded to a depth sufficient to cover the highest mountains, and then the water would just disappear, presumably by running over the edge, and that a lifeless earth could be repopulated by a few survivors on a boat. A magical world where prophets and seers could foretell the future and where miracles, angels, and spirits were only to be expected.
And, if Francis Collins is to be believed, even though they got it hopelessly wrong in so many places, as shown by scientific evidence, they can be relied upon to have got it all correct in the places where Francis Collins agrees with them, and for which no scientific evidence is thus required. In this case, faith trumps evidence, obviously.