Some people still believe that *fossils were put underground by by God (or Satan) to test our faith. This appears to be a small subset of Young Earth Creationists. Some believe that due to the biblical account of history, dinosaur bones cannot be older than a few thousand years. This is a ludicrous claim and I have no intention of writing a “Creationists be crazy” post. What I find interesting about this claim and others like it is the psychological process of denying objective reality. Any belief that is maintained in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is usually the case for two reasons:
1. The individual is sheltered or insulated from external ideas or otherwise uneducated/undereducated about contradicting concepts.
2. The individual is aware of alternate ideas and has discarded their content or their source.
The Young Earth Creationist dogma is a perfect example of this sort of willful ignorance because it follows the skeleton of a rational argument.
A. If the bible is written by God
B. And the bible reveals the age of the Earth to be less than 6,000 years old.
C. Then the Earth is young.
Imbedded in this message is a toolbox for discounting any idea, no matter how reasonable or factual that does not gel with the identified religious ideology. It’s the ultimate appeal to authority with the semblance of a syllogism. It provides the framework for every other unsubstantiated claim. We can simplify it even more to apply to an entire worldview:
A. If the bible is written by God
B. And there are facts that disagree with the bible’s claims
C. Then those facts are wrong
Armed with this basic thought process, a believer is free to disregard any evidence to the contrary of the the claims they make. They are not subject to the laws of nature: their God lives outside of these laws. They are not subject to the shared reality that most of us inhabit. They see the world as it “truly” is. You cannot pin down their God to any criteria of character or abilities. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the perpetually moving goalpost. You cannot hold the idea of God in your hands. Just when you think you have him, he’s gone.
You simply can not prove the existence of a being without identifiable attributes. If this were any other claim, it would be laughable. Here’s where they get you. Due to the self-contradictory content of scripture, people can make virtually any specific assertion about the will of God. They can mine any quote or “interpret” any text to promote any agenda. Their claims do not need to stand up to logical scrutiny because of the built-in ultimate appeal to authority. In the end, your claims about God’s will says more about you than about God.
"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." ~ Susan B Anthony
They can take this amorphous concept and bend it to whatever end they choose. The tenets can and often do change with the speed of revelation. If you believe that human nature is foul and depraved, your god is likely to be Angry Authoritative God. If you think that all humanity is cut from the same cloth (and that cloth is full of rainbows and sunshine) your god is probably the Warm and Fuzzy God. Take your pick. There are plenty of biblical references to support both.
*Author's note: I found dosens of internet conversations/blogposts about the Creationist (Christian, Mormon and Jahova's Witness) claims that fossils were planted by Satan to test humanity's faith but I could not locate any books or essays from theists on the subject. If any of you can find them please leave links in the comments. Thanks.