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Brief van dr. Siegfried Scherer n.a.v. zijn positie in het debat over de leeftijd van de aarde

Noot van de redactie: In 2010 had Jan van Meerten een discussie met dr. Gerdien de Jong over de positie van dr. Siegfried Scherer in het debat over de leeftijd van de aarde. Naar aanleiding daarvan stuurde Van Meerten dr. Scherer een e-mail. Hij reageerde op 18 november 2010 hierop middels een korte e-mail. Zijn bericht was eerder te lezen op een oude weblog, maar deze weblog is helaas ter ziele en het artikel is nog slechts op zeer omslachtige wijze vindbaar. De brief is in het Engels geschreven en volgt hieronder.

Dear Jan van Meerten,

Thank you for your mail. I will try to give you an answer but it will be short since I do have only little time.

As a young man I was quite impressed by Young Earth Creationism (YEC) and I was absolutely sure that scientific data clearly point to a young earth and a young universe. Over many years, I had to realize that the astrophysical and geophysical models which were suggested by YEC failed, and apparently did so to a large extent. So I became disappointed many times. I am also afraid that the scientific standard of American/Australian young earth creationism often (but not always) is low. By the way, I would now comment on my own old coal article quite critically. At this stage of my knowledge, which is of course preliminary, I have arrived at the conclusion that the vast majority of astrophysical and geophysical data, and also quite a number of biological data, among others those which are direct consequences of basic type biology, contradict a young age of the universe, the solar system and the earth.

To make a the story short: After personally walking a long and difficult way, I am not any more an „American type young earth creationist“. While I can see that there are theological reasons in favour of YEC (the major point being the theodicy problem), as a christian I am also seeking ways to understand Genesis 1-3 in a different way. Certainly, this topic is important but, it is not at the center of christianity.

Nevertheless, research and discussion towards a young earth position should be performed and must be tolerated by the scientific community for three reasons, provided this research meets the commonly accepted standards in the respective fields. First, science is always preliminary and it can never be excluded that its theories are in error even if they appear to be very well supported: therefore, skillful critique is at the very center of science. Second, as scientists we often get only the answers for the questions they are asking. Different people ask different questions, therefore getting different answers. This may help to get a more complete understanding of reality. Third, censorship would be a miserable scientific attitude, indeed.

While evolutionary biology is a very successful, important and most interesting scientific discipline, I am still convinced that currently known evolutionary mechanisms fail to explain the evolution of novel biological information and molecular machines. I believe in the existence of a creator, but I do not believe that such gaps of biological knowledge are “scientific evidence” for creation (I am, therefore, not an „American ID person“ either). Perhaps, novel mechanisms to be discovered in the future will solve this problem? However, to check this possibility, much more evolutionary research is required and must be financed. On the other hand, it may be true that no natural mechanisms whatsoever exist which can account for the evolution of novel biological information. We just don’t know, and, as scientists and for the time being, we have to leave this question open. In the mean time, christians and atheists should work together and do some good evolutionary research to get more data.

Well, I am afraid that this is disappointing news for you. Nevertheless, I encourage you to seek the truth, both spiritually and scientifically, regardless of the direction it will lead you. Jesus Christ told us that HE is he truth. I believe that this has not only a spiritual meaning but also bears consequences for us christians doing science. You may share this mail as a complete text with your peers and with your professor.

Please give my best regards to her.

Yours sincerely,

Siegfried Scherer