July 12, 2020

Relating to Science, Our Neighbor

By Chaplain Mike

Christianity Today’s top ten list of news stories from 2010 included one that prompted a lot of discussion here on Internet Monk:

8. Prominent Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke resigns from Reformed Theological Seminary under pressure amid debate on the historicity of Adam. “If the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution,” he said in a video for BioLogos, “to deny that reality will make us a cult.”

Collin Hansen at The Gospel Coalition also included BioLogos in his “Top Ten Theology and Church Stories from 2010.”

9. BioLogos Stirs Debate Over Evolution
National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins launched BioLogos in late 2007 with money from the John Templeton Foundation. This year BioLogos reignited the evolution debate among Christians in earnest. The controversy began last spring. Venerable Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke resigned from Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando after recording a video for BioLogos in which he said Christianity risked becoming a cult if the “data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution.” Then BioLogos picked a fight with Al Mohler, a young earth creationist. Neither side appears willing to retreat.

On New Year’s Eve, BioLogos noted these acknowledgments and reflected on where we go from here. Their fundamental position is summarized in a paragraph that Christians everywhere would do well to consider:

We live in a scientific age and that is not going to change. For hundreds of years now science has been successfully informing us about the natural world. The Church need not take the entire world of science on, and it must not allow itself to be led by those with enormous rhetorical skill and the keenest of intellects, even though they are sincere and love the Lord with all their hearts, souls and minds. These people, gifted as they are, are taking the Church down a dead end road. Scientific knowledge is not deeply flawed and we cannot allow ourselves to be led down this pathway any longer.

Let me break this paragraph down and paraphrase it in six statements.

  1. We live in a scientific age and that is not going to change—science will continue to take a vital role in leading and shaping the way we think about and live in the world.
  2. Science has proven its worth in accurately informing us about the natural world.
  3. It would be foolish for the Church to take on the whole world of science and simply take opposing positions to their findings.
  4. To do so takes us down a dead end road, leading nowhere good for the Church.
  5. Scientific knowledge, though always developing and being refined, is not deeply flawed.
  6. Christians must find other, better ways of interacting with the scientific community and learning to understand and practice our faith in a world we share with them.

Now it’s your turn.

Is this the position Christians should take? How might you change or refine it? Or, do you strongly disagree? If so, how would you summarize your position?

Let a new year of vibrant, respectful discussion begin!

Comments

  1. Well, the story that most excites me and that I’ve only seen quite literally in the past few days in these “Top Ten/Round-up of the Year” lists is this:

    http://jameszaworski.newsvine.com/_news/2010/12/25/5712958-the-number-one-news-story-of-2010-dna

    Not one, but two sister species to our own; the Neanderthals and now the Denisovans. And interbred with us to boot!

    Frankly, this kind of thing makes more sense to me when the Bible talks of “the sons of God and the daughters of men” than the traditional interpretation of it being fallen angels taking mortal wives or Cain marrying a wife from the land of Nod (unless we take it that Cain married one of his sisters). I’m not saying that this is so, just that it appeals to me 🙂

    But yes – always it has seemed to me that the great unanswered question in purely materialist evolution is what happened to the other hominids? Why are we the only representatives surviving? Why are we the only examples of consciousness and intelligence (yes, I know other creatures are intelligent but not to a comparable human level). The rise of chimpanzees did not mean the dying-out of gorillas. There are hundreds of thousands of insect species. Even aquatic mammals range from seals to whales. But only one us or like-us?

    • If they interbred with us, wouldn’t that mean that they are the same species (and thus we, Neanderthals, and Denisovans are all subspecies) as us, since that’s what typically defines what a ‘species’?

      • Species are a bit more fuzzy than that. Since Neanderthals and Denisovans were physically and genetically distinct and because interbreeding was quite rare, it makes sense to categorize them as different species. This holds for many animal and plant species today as well, which often can interbreed but don’t except under unusual circumstances.

      • Eddie Scizzard says

        A lot of species can technically interbreed. The criterion used for delineation is closer to “will these groups *typically* interbreed?

        Species is not a “natural” category, it is a term of art used by scientists and does not have a neat mapping onto the classical notion of “kind”.

    • Eddie Scizzard says

      The cynical interpretation as to why there aren’t any Denisovans or Neanderthals left:

      “the most bastardly species won.”
      That is, we committed genocide. Maybe that was the original sin.

      Or maybe we just were better at foraging, hunting and gathering than they were. *shrugs*

    • Danny Willis says

      One problem with the idea that the Cain married a woman from a different land (and not being his sister or niece) is with their ability to be saved. If Christ died to pay the penalty for the line of Adam, then anyone who was not related to him can not be saved. This means there would be a real possibility of some people groups in the world today not being able to receive Christ as their savior. This idea also gives fuel to the racism fires that there are certain people who are more advanced than others rather than the Biblical idea that we are all of one man and woman, and all sinners in need of a savior.

      • Eddie Scizzard says

        who says Neanderthals or Denisovans were “less advanced” than us.

        Evolution doesn’t mean progress toward some ideal. It means differentiation.

        • Danny Willis says

          It was originally thought that Neanderthals were “less advanced” than modern man. Aborigines were hunted and there was a man from Africa or South America put on display at eh Bronx Zoo with “other” apes.

          My main point was that if there is a line of man that is not through Adam then there is a possibility that there are people who can not be saved today because they were not born into the first Adam’s sin and thus can’t benefit from the second Adam’s death.

          There are too many definitions for evolution. You are the first one I’ve heard of to claim that it means “differentiation”. There is not one specific ideal that evolution is progressing towards but believers claim often that it is “advancing” in a way that means more than simply moving. Natural Selection doesn’t select at random, it selects the “better” organisms to survive, thus they are of a higher order than the organisms that died off.

          There are a few exceptions but you’d be hard pressed to find a evolutionists who thinks evolutions just made things different than it being the way things progressed.

          • Eddie Scizzard says

            I am far from the only scientist to regard evolution in this matter. Ask almost any scientist whether a bat is “better” than a human. They’ll ask you “better at what”?

            “it selects the “better” organisms to survive, thus they are of a higher order than the organisms that died off.”

            No, it selects the organism that fails the least badly, given certain external conditions. This doesn’t leave to any generic “improvement”. It can lead to a generic, short term improvement in some metrics, but this is fleeting as the alterations that ensue alter the fitness functions of the organisms around this one, and the changes in them alter the fitness functions of the original organisms.

            Natural selection is a filter function, that depends on the current state of the organism, and the environment in which it is embedded.

            So describe it as follows fitness= f(organism, environment). So after a successful adaptation, fitness is increased, relative to the last value. But in short order the the second variable will change (environment) and a new fitness value is generated. There is no reason to assume that this new fitness value is higher than the preceding.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Evolution doesn’t mean progress toward some ideal. It means differentiation.

          Not in common understanding (or misunderstanding); due to the “March of Evolution” idea (with Us at the pinnacle in a remnant of the old Chain of Being), there is a common idea of “Progress toward some Ideal.”

          In one of his essays, Gould mentions that Darwin disliked the term “Evolution” for his theory; he preferred the more awkward but more accurate “Descent with Modification.” Reason being that in Victorian England the word “Evolution” already had the baggage of meaning “Progress toward some Ideal” — Linear Upward Progress, an ascending Line instead of a Branching Bush with differntiation more than any innate directionality.

          As Chesterton joked, “The Victorians thought history ended well, because it ended with the Victorians.”

  2. I’m a fairly conservative evangelical, and I don’t have much of a problem with the six point summary you mention, Mike. Much of the science versus scripture debate is about red herrings. I haven’t seen any settled scientific fact that undermines my faith in Christ.

    I would add two qualifications:

    First, scientists are still people, and subject to the various human faults and sins as the rest of us. This means they will be influenced in their interpretation of reality by the spirit of the age. To not recognize this and take it into account is naïveté.

    Secondly, I don’t think even perfect science will give us a complete picture of reality. Science assumes, but cannot prove, a closed system of cause and effect. It can do no other, and in doing so stays true to it’s nature. But it is hasty to equate this with reality.

    I especially hope to see the last of the six points expanded on and developed in this blog.

    • “closed system of cause and effect”

      I’m not really sure what you had in mind by the above, but it doesn’t feel right to me. It seems like a statement linked to determinism, which was largely grounded in the idea that reality was a closed causal system. Causality is known to be a lot more complicated than simple cause and effect. I’m thinking here of non-deterministic physics and non-causal events. We’ve scientifically demonstrated that reality is a lot more complicated than simple linear cause and effect can account for. Anyway, if I misinterpreted what you meant, my apologies.

      • I’ve read a little bit about quantum mechanics and non-causal events on the quantum level. It’s a bit hard to keep up with what is happening here, but the best analysis I have seen indicates that the issue is more about the limitations of our ability to observe causation than the absolute lack of causation. In any case, I don’t know how we can continue to use the scientific method if events occur without predictalble causation of some kind. But I’m over my pay grade here.

        • Eddie Scizzard says

          debatable. I cut my teeth on quantum mechanics back in college. One interpretation is that we don’t and cannot have access to all the causal information. But another interpretation is that: if there is no access to information, there is no sense speaking of it, and it may just as well not exist. Therefore “causality” itself is problematic.

          • I would agree that it is debatable.

            My point in the first post was that science normally assumes casuation with a closed system. That is, the scientific method presupposes causality. Perhaps I am mistaken in that, but I haven’t seen any examples of another kind.

            My larger point is that, since it cannot prove causality in a closed system (and your comment only strengthens this) we cannot assume science can grasp all of reality.

      • Btw, a good review of some of the ways of interpreting the metaphysics of quantum physics is here:

        http://www.reasons.org/resources/non-staff-papers/the-metaphysics-of-quantum-mechanics

        • Daniel,
          I’ll have to spend some time with this piece, but it looks to be very helpful. Thank you.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Years ago, over a pencil-paper-and-funny-dice session, my old Dungeonmaster remarked that “Physics turned into Metaphysics years ago, but nobody will admit to it.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It seems like a statement linked to determinism, which was largely grounded in the idea that reality was a closed causal system.

        “But murder is of the will, which God hath made free.”
        — Father Brown, in G.K.Chesterton’s “Doom of the Darnaways”; that particular Father Brown Mystery is G.K.’s poke at Determinism

  3. I’ll take my turn here and ramble on a bit:
    I’m a science buff and occasional teacher, so I might be a bit more science-savvy than your typical layperson. I’m not understating. More than once (and not to my credit) I’ve taken the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ position and argued against fellow Christians when they showed ignorance or distorted current scientific thought. Mostly, I’ve been content to stay out of the larger discussion out of embarrassment over attempts by Christians to controvert science on its own ground. Some weeks ago a young guest poster wrote a nice piece pointing out the foolishness of scientists and theologians playing in each other’s sandboxes. I agree.
    I’ve also been around long enough to see science change its explanation things and change again. It’s what good science does. I love science BECAUSE it provides wonderful explanations of what Nature presents to our senses, but I also appreciate that it has a long way to go. I think it’s premature to dismiss the mythology* of the Bible because our modern reading of it doesn’t seem to line up with modern science. In my mind (and maybe only in my mind) their paths haven’t crossed yet.
    Finally, on the ‘deeply flawed’ state of science. If you believe in a Fall and Redemption and a New Creature, you may see an epistemological problem with science as the handiwork of the merely-human mind. It does beautiful work, “a little lower than the Angels,” but there are realms it cannot enter.
    I’l give CS Lewis the last word:
    “There is no such thing as Man’s conquest of Nature. There is only Man conquering Man with Nature as the tool.”

    * Mythology: Check Webster’s primary def. before you flame me, please.

    • Good post. Thanks, Roger.

    • I do believe in the fall, but I think a bigger issue in epistemology is our state of being a creature within creation. In other words, we are inside the aquarium, trying to figure the whole thing out, when it is at least conceivable that the aquarium can only be totally understood from the outside. We want to understand the universe, but we are always a part of that which we are trying to understand. To put it another way, perhaps it is naive to think we can understand a system when our own thoughts about the system are part of the system.

      Clear as mud?

      • Dan, good point, and let me take your illustration further. The “way out” of this dilemma that Ken Ham and AIG always move to at this point is, “God was there at creation and we have his Word about what happened.” In other words, Genesis is God alone (without any human involvement) telling us how the aquarium itself was made. This assumes a view of the Bible that I do not hold. The words of the Bible are not words from heaven dropped to earth (from outside the aquarium). The words of the Bible, though inspired, were written from inside and don’t always give us details we would like from outside. They certainly tell us there is One outside the aquarium, who made the aquarium, and who has a plan to clean the aquarium up now that it has become polluted and dangerous. They do not necessarily tell us much about the make-up of the aquarium itself or how it works.

        • CM, I think you are trying to make the point that having Genesis be the words of God alone somehow implies that the message must be a scientific one, rather than the semi-symbolic picture of the ordering of the Holy Land that you have put forth in other posts. I don’t really think that’s what you mean, but it seems to be what you imply. On the other hand, you say, the Bible is “inspired”. But “inspiration” simply means that the origin is with God, or in other words “God alone (without any human involvement).” Your view of Genesis, as I understand it, is completely consistent with inerrancy and verbal inspiration because you see the first chapters as being of a literary type that is not meant to be “literally” read. It’s still consistent with having its origin completely from God and in its entirety the exact symbolism (from outside the aquarium) that God intended to communicate.

          • I should clarify that “inspiration” means “without any human involvement” as to origin of the words, not the recording of them (i.e., writing them down). If the words originated from God, they are true, whether they are intended to be literal scientific truths or symbolic pictures—either is possible in a “God-breathed” work. The problem occurs when people confuse “inspiration” with a particular interpretive framework. IMHO, it’s just as big a mistake for folks like Ham to connect YEC views with the concept of inspiration as it is for others to criticize inspiration or inerrancy because they think it requires them to hold YEC views.

      • That was very clear. I shall be quoting you.

      • I’m glad that epistemology was mentioned, because it really is at the root of a lot of this discussion. 18 months ago Stanley Fish (love him or hate him) had a very engaging discourse with the New York Times readers on this issue of being inside the aquarium, and that there is no such thing as “reason alone”, apart from revelation. The reactions of the NY Times readers we as interesting as the original post. Google “Stanley Fish God Talk Part 2” if you are interested.

      • I would argue, to a certain degree, that this situation is already known and understood, at least at an abstract level. It is known that in order to completely understand the universe, that is to say that one wants to know everything about it, you need to model each and every particle in existence. To do so would require a computer containing more particles than are existent in the universe. Such a computer can never be constructed, thus, we can never perfectly understand the universe.

        Or, as Jostein Gaarder wrote “if our brains were simple enough that we could understand them, we’d be to stupid to understand them.” This is, of course, understanding your brain with just your brain and not the help of anything more sophisticated.

  4. I have always told my daughter that science has to catch up to the Bible. When Hubble discovered red shift it threw the scientific community a big curve. If the universe was expanding that meant if you went backwards in time there had to be a beginning. The universe was not static. Science was catching up to the Bible. Articles like http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=human-remains-spark-spat always tickle me. A hundred years ago scholars said David was a mythical character, then they unearthed evidence of his existence. I don’t for a moment claim to know what actually happened, but I believe it is exactly as the Bible says. Whether I understand it correctly or not is another question. The church has taken the opposite position of science in the past and been wrong (Earth being the center of the universe). The scripture wasn’t wrong, man was wrong. I chose to place my faith in God, that the scripture is right, and science has to catch up as it eventually does. Along the way that may mean I have realizations that I didn’t understand the Bible as well as I thought I did.

    • But what about areas where science, in discarding old ideas, has discarded ideas that agreed with the Bible and embraced ones that disagree? Five hundred years ago, almost all Christians were sure that the Bible said that the sun and all the planets revolved around the earth.

      I’m not going to argue that the Bible is false, but simply that it is dangerous to state that science is heading towards the conclusions you disagree with.

      • That is simple to explain, science is always catching up to the Bible, but nobody knows that the Bible is already there until science catches up. Nobody ever used the Bible to say that scientists should be looking for redshift, but as soon as it was found then people like cam knew it was already in the Bible, despite nobody noticing it or suggesting it was there. Interestingly, the Q’ran has the same ability to be ahead of science without anyone ever seeing it beforehand. Obviously middle eastern holy books are clever like that.

        Or possibly, people just retrofit their understanding of the vague descriptions into the books and claim that they say things they don’t.

        • Eddie Scizzard says

          “Or possibly, people just retrofit their understanding of the vague descriptions into the books and claim that they say things they don’t.”

          word.

    • Eddie Scizzard says

      Catch up to the Bible? For heaven’s sake, the first chapter of Genesis thinks that the sky is a partition between two bodies of water.

      • Danny Willis says

        A better translation uses the word “firmament” instead of sky. This would better apply to everything between the waters and land on the surface of the earth to the far reaches of space, thus is why the stars, sun and moon are in the “firmament” as well as the birds being able to fly in it. The waters above the firmament possibly refer to the heaven that God has built as there is waters and seas there as well.

        There are plenty of things that don’t make sense at the time they are said in the Bible, nor are understood immediately. One example is when Jesus said that Lazarus was only sleeping and that he would be fine. At the time he was dead and everyone who knew him and Jesus were confused until Jesus called him out of the grave.

        One really good example of science being behind the Bible was that only a few hundred years ago science claimed there was only about 1000 stars in the universe, but the Bible had already compared their numbers to that of the sands on the shore.

        • Eddie Scizzard says

          But “science” never claimed there were only thousands of stars. Perhaps *some* scientists did. Science is not a single document and does not make unitary claims.

          BTW, I can read Hebrew, and I know how to translate the first two books of Genesis. I’ve even done it. And it’s fairly clear what the cosmology of Gen 1 is, something like that from the following Hindu Upanishad:

          “Water is up there beyond the sky; the sky supports it” (Aitareya Upanishad I.2).
          http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/gre13.htm

          If you’re saying this represents a true state of affairs that we haven’t discovered yet, I’ll have to bail on this conversation. That’s an argument from “what if”. How can someone respond to that?

          • Danny Willis says

            You are right in that it isn’t “science” that claims anything but rather the scientists. That point should carry over to the idea that it is better to take the word of God than it is to take the word of fallen man. Man’s understanding will always be behind the Bible and the God who wrote it.

            As far as the firmament, I believe I used loose enough wording to show that I wasn’t claiming it to be a true state of affairs that we haven’t discovered yet. I was simply using a straight forward reading of the Bible to shed some light on the possibility.

          • I say the water above the firmament fell during the flood. I didn’t bring up any of the examples to pick a fight to prove anything to anyone. Take my whole post to say “I believe in God and the scripture. I may not understand it all, but I don’t get scared if science seems to contradict the scripture. My faith is in Him.”

  5. I love the bible narratives. I love science. The two shall never ‘prove’ one or the other.

    I have accepted the biblical creation account as true ‘beginnings’ from Moses’ perspective. He was recording the short version from all the myths I am sure he was taught as a prince of Egypt. He was not attempting to set the record straight looking back, but to explain the very current status of mankind & God’s involvement in its unfolding history up to the time Genesis was written. The purpose more to state why things were the way there are now, not a scientific treatise on how it came to be. There are many nuances of theistic evolutionary thought & although I am rather comfortable with an old earth, the nagging ‘recent’ appearance of modern humans, of human civilization & written history, makes a big statement to God’s dramatic impact on our origins. If we can only trace our ‘roots’ back maybe 100,000 years, & we are the pinnacle of self-aware creatures, the brief history of our existence compared to the billions of years of preparation for that event the real head-scratcher. That & the fact that God is deliberately extravagant in His creative phases however they are understood (time+extreme changes+variety of life, etc.).

    The way Christian ‘experts’ from whatever position is taken present their perspectives should be done in a way that actually brings glory to God. Making silly museums & insisting the first 2 chapters of Genesis thee litmus test for ‘believing’ the rest of the bible must be challenged using science that is not elevated to its own pedestal of innerancy. And the freedom one has to search intently into natural relationships one way to give glory to God. He is far more intricate & amazingly detailed in all His doings. To gloss it over with a convenient bible verse the greater error in my opinion…

  6. FollowerOfHim says

    “6) Christians must find other, better ways of interacting with the scientific community and learning to understand and practice our faith in a world we share with them.”

    This hits me right in the New Year’s Resolution. I’m a mathematician by training, and while much of my spiritual discipline is exercised in simply trying not to completely bite through my tongue in Sunday School, I feel more and more that my efforts should instead be placed where much of our efforts as Christians should be placed: in spreading the Gospel. After all, since I and others like me don’t have any bone to pick with science but yet confess the name of Christ, we are precisely the ones who are best positioned to share the Gospel in the ivory towers of science.

    I don’t expect Ken Ham to change any scientists’ minds; he’ll mostly just be preaching to the proverbial choir by the busload. But rather than leave matters at that, other Christians like me must clearly then pick up the slack.

    It was fun for me to write 60 pages of blog postings on Evolution vs. Creationism a couple months ago, but I don’t recall hearing a single angle rejoicing while I was at it.

  7. The 6 points in the essay are put forth in the context of Genesis and I have no bone to pick with any of the points in that context. However, in reality, Christianity is based on the opposite of 3 and 4 in that we profess belief in life after death and resurrection (Christ’s and ours). Science is adamant that there is no life after death and that resurrection is an impossibility, but those are fundamentals of the faith that the church is built on regardless of what science says. So these points really can’t be accepted without caveats—when there is clear, unmistakable revelation and testimony about something like the Resurrection, the church can stand (and *should* stand) in opposition to science. When there is less clarity—we don’t know for certain that Genesis is intended to be literal or symbolic—then the church can take a humbler attitude and defer to science where science seems to speak with a clearer voice.

    • Science is adamant there is no life after death? I would say that “cannot prove” is very different than “adamant,” which seems to imply either human emotion or some type of consensus.

    • I wouldn’t expect science to affirm life after death and the resurrection. Those aren’t the kinds of things science is interested in or engaged with. Nor should they be. I expect science to tell me about the natural world and how it works, and to develop technologies out of that which help us live better. I don’t expect the weatherman to tell me God sends the snow (like the Bible does), I just want him to use his scientific expertise to give me his best guess of when it’s coming and how much so that I can deal with it.

  8. Steve Newell says

    Is the real issue of Science vs Religion or when Science is treated as a religion? What I mean is that there are many questions that science cannot answer such as why does evil exist, is there mean to our lives or do we just exist, etc. Science can explain the “how” but not the “why”.

    In addition, Science needs to the ethics of religion in set boundaries of what is proper. For example, is it acceptable to use the science data gathered by the Nazis in their evil experiments Likewise, is there any ethical boundaries to what science can do? Is it acceptable to clone a human in order to “harvest” organs? These are issues that we cannot just leave to science.

  9. Danny Willis says

    I think science is great. My wife was diagnosed with cancer soon after we were married and thanks to chemo and radiation treatments she is now cancer free. My son was born via cesarean section when he wouldn’t turn around all the way and now both are healthy. I look forward to getting lasik surgery someday, then I can throw out my glasses. I hope to one day take a ride into space (once it’s reasonably affordable) and I just watched a video about a new invention for a table saw that might result in mankind never losing a finger to one again (time warp sawstop).

    Science is a great tool and being a well established method of learning and development it will never go away. There is one misconception though; all of the above advancements in medical science and technology have absolutely nothing to do with evolution.

    My Christian brothers and sisters, I hope you will have eyes to see that empirical science is a great thing, but historical science is entirely different. It is closer to a philosophy or a religion than it is to the scientific method. Science has its limitations in verifiability. One can not form a science experiment to prove that someone graduated from high school, they would require a different way to get supportive evidence for the event. That evidence would likely include testimony from the graduate, his/her parents, friends and teachers, as well as a verifiable diploma and possibly a video. These are examples of eyewitnesses and historical documents.

    If one were to want to know what happened at the beginning, it would be much more reliable to find the written testimony of one who was there, who saw it, who caused it and who can not lie about it, than it would be to trust someone who is a depraved sinner who is six thousand to sixteen billion years removed from the event and who may be able to make a baby but is woefully inadequate to make and shape a universe.

    Young earth creationists do not reject observational science, they reject the stories created in historical science. There is a very big difference. I love science and I am amazed at the complexity of biology and would be ecstatic if my son were to pursue it as a career or hobby, but I already have a story about the origin of the universe, I already have a faith, and it’s much more reliable than that of any modern scientist.

    • That is a false distinction, Danny, and a total misunderstanding of what science does.

      • Creationists are very fond of false distinctions. If it isnt “historical vs empirical” it is “micro vs macro”

        • Danny Willis says

          What makes these distinctions false? Is it because scientists say so?

          Do you understand that in order for molecules to man evolution (macro to some) there must be multiple thousands of bits of information added to the DNA code by natural causes (an uphill change) but nearly all observed changes (micro) re-arrange the genetic code or take away from it (a sideways or downhill change). This seems like a rational distinction.

          If you disagree, please explain why but I would hope you might open your eyes enough to see the real deception.

          • Define information and then you might be worth listening to on the subject.

          • Actually, there’s a lot more information than just “thousands of bits.” And I’m not aware of a single instance of random noise increasing the information in a genome.

            But what does that have to do with how old the earth is?

          • How to increase information in a string using only KNOWN mutation mechanisms.

            1) Start with a string lets say AAA
            2) Double copy the string: AAAAAA
            3) Copy one of the parts of that string incorrectly AAAABA

            You now have a string with more information in it than the string you started with, and you used only mutation mechanisms that have been observed in nature.

          • Danny Willis says

            Definition of information: An encoded, symbolically represented message conveying expected action and intended purpose.

            Donaldbain, your example would be valid if AAAAAA carried a know meaning and AAAABA carried an additional message, but they are just letters. The DNA code in an amoeba has the information to form, maintain and reproduce amoebas but does not have the additional information needed to form, maintain and reproduce humans. Most point mutations (like your example) have detrimental results and virtually none have actually produced a new feature or function like not having eyes to having eyes and the ability to understand what is seen.

            (The only example that might possibly counter this is one organisms new ability to digest nylon but since the ability to digest something was already present it could be similar to humans ability to eat man-made foods that don’t exist in nature.)

            Cipher, yes there is more information than just “thousands of bits”. If you look again you should see that I said “multiple thousands of bits”. I did this to avoid possible exaggeration (by saying millions or billions) but still convey the idea that there is a lot of additional information needed to go from molecules to man. Also, the post was not intended to address the age of the earth it was to counter the claim made by Donalbain that: ‘Creationists are very fond of false distinctions. If it isnt “historical vs empirical” it is “micro vs macro”’

          • No information theorist I have ever spoken to has ever used that definition of “information”. But then again, none of them have ever been creationists either.

          • Danny Willis says

            Donalbain, feel free to share the definition that they do accept so we can be on the same page. I do not think that the definition I provided is inaccurate, but if you care to explain why you disagree, I’d be willing to hear it.

          • The most common definition of information is as follows:

            Inability to be compressed. Basicaly, if you cant compress string A as small as you can compress string B, then it has more information. So, AAA has the same amount of information as AAAAAA since they can both be compressed into the letter A and a command to repeat it a certain number of times. But AAAABA has more information, since it cant be compressed as small.

            If you find this sort of thing interesting, I heartily recommend a blog called Good Math Bad Math which can be found on scientopia.org. In his archives are some excellent (engaged) layman level descriptions of information theory

          • Danny Willis says

            Let’s see if I follow the logic of your definition.

            Information is the inability to be compressed. I’m assuming that liquids are dismissed as not being information though the are unable to be compressed, so I’ll move on.

            Does this apply to numbers? If I said I’ll give you 1000 dollars and only take 10 dollars for myself, does that mean that since we can reduce the three 0’s into one that we both only get 10 dollars?

            What about someone giving elaborate directions. If one says, “Take out a wooden writing utensil and completely fill out every answer that is asked of you on this test to the best of your ability using the knowledge that you have acquired through years of studying and research and when you are finished, stand up and carry the paper to the front of the room and set it in the 12 inch by 10 inch blue colored bin resting on the shelf by the white door that lead out of the room and into the hallway.” is it dismissed as not being information because it can be reduced to “Use a pencil to take the test. When you are finished place it in the blue bin on your way out.”?

            According to the definition of information given, the above logic is true. The first paragraph is not information but the last sentence is.

            I will have to reject the definition you have given regardless of who it cam from. It does not address the fact that information is immaterial and that it is meant to carry a message of significance. Its a shame that we can’t be on the same page on this but you have given me no reason to reject the definition I stated.

          • Your example of the pencil and the test is a good one. Both of those examples contain the same information because they can be compressed to the same state. The long one contains no more information than the second, because both can be compressed down to the same basic instructions. THey both comtain information, but neither contains more information than the other. However, a statement “complete the test” contains LESS information, since you can’t compress the first two down to that level without loss, while the statement “Take the test but skip every other question, while using a pencil” contains MORE information.

            And of course, you are welcome to reject any definition you like. You just won’t be taken seriously by people who know what they are talking about such as actual information theorists..

          • I should clarify, the definition is of the AMOUNT of information.

          • Danny Willis says

            I disagree with the claim that the first statement about the test contained the same amount of information as the second. The necessity of the information depends on who it is given to. If one is a regular student who has taken tests in that class before then the first statement is “too much” information, they might not need to be told any of the information at all, instead only needing to be handed the test.

            If the first statement is being told to someone out side the class room with little education they would have quite a bit of information to gain from the first statement, such as:
            Some writing utensils are wooden, which means some are not
            They should give complete answers, not short ones
            Tests are to gauge what you have learned when you study and research
            You should turn your paper in rather than leave it in your seat
            The bin that the paper should be placed in is at the front of the room, on the shelf, near the door. It is also 12″ x 10″ in size and is colored blue
            The door leads to the hallway instead of the courtyard, the auditorium or anywhere else.

            All the above information is lost in the second statement, thus the first statement contains more information. One important part missing from the definition of information that you gave is that information has a giver and a receiver.

            I will continue to reject the definition you have provided as there still is no logical argument not to, only logical fallacies of appeal to authority and appeal to consequences (not being taken seriously [consequences] by people who know what they are talking about such as actual information theorists [authority])

          • As I say, that is fine. You can reject any definition you like. But you dont actually change the definitions as used by people who know what they are talking about.

          • Danny Willis says

            Again you are committing the No True Scotsman fallacy by claiming that you definition is the only accepted by people who know anything about the subject. Dr. Werner Gitt was a director and professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig), the Head of the Department of Information Technology. To reject his definition without a logical reason is foolish and I would think you to be better than that.

      • Danny Willis says

        Actually it is an accurate distinction and a good understanding of what the two different types of science do. If you think otherwise, I would entertain a decent explanation.

        There is a difference between historical and empirical science. To deny it out of hand is foolish, to look into it and make a logical decision is wise.

    • I think there is a valid distinction between “historical” and “empirical” as you say and it’s something that I think is often not acknowledged. Fundamentally, since we do not have the ability to travel back in time, “historical” science cannot be tested and that’s the distinction. It’s also important to realize, though, that historical science is practiced all the time in highly meaningful ways and it’s not just guesswork or wishful thinking. When reconstruction of the details of a plane crash is done from the remaining pieces, there is a very rational application of physical principles to reconstruct the history of the event. When archaeological sites are excavated, rational application of physical principles also takes place to reconstruct things like the history of fires or floods at the site or what building methods were used—these principles have often been used to provide confirmation of Biblical stories. So although it”s good, as you’ve pointed out, to recognize that there is an element of uncertainty in “historical” science because we can never really know for certain exactly what happened (there’s always a chance some extremely rare event took place that we have no way of knowing about with the evidence given), it’s also fair to say that historical science is being conducted in a rational way, following the same valid principles used in realworld applications all the time.

      • Danny Willis says

        Your examples of historical science are good but they are still different from the assumptions of uniformitarianism and an old-age earth.

        The investigators of a plane crash have in tact planes to refer to when figuring out what went wrong. Also, archeologists often have some form of literature to refer to as well as modern society to compare it to.

        The problems of historical science still exist when scientists try to use if for what it is not able. There is a difference between examining a burned out building and determining what the atmospheric conditions were billions of years before anyone was around to witness it. It is the stories that are assigned to the evidences found. One example is Nebraska man. Originally just a tooth was discovered and before they could really study it, there were assumptions that it was human, and likely the first human ancestor in North America. Before long, the observational science finds it to be that of an extinct pig. The pigs were later discovered to be living in Paraguay today and as one article puts it “the fossil record becomes a mere yesterday.”

        There have been numerous stories assigned to the fossil record by historical science that have been disproved by modern observations. One example is the Grand Canyon. Originally assumed to be caused by a little bit of water over an extremely long period of time; But modern floods and other catastrophes like the Mt. St. Helens eruption show that the better explanation for the Grand Canyon is an extremely large amount of water (like that of a global flood) and a little bit of time.

        Historical science shouldn’t try to replace eyewitness testimony and historical record.

        • Better explanation IF you are a creationist. No real geologist thinks that. None. Zero. Once you sign up to the AIG style crowd with their statements of faith, you are not doing science anymore.

          • Danny Willis says

            Here are some examples of Geologists that hold a creationists view:

            Steven A. Austin Ph.D. (Geology), Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 1979
            Dr. John D. Morris, Geologist Ph.D.. University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, 1980
            Dr. Terry Mortenson Ph.D. in history of geology, Coventry University, UK 1996
            Dr. Andrew Snelling, Ph.D. Geology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
            Dr. John Whitmore, B.S. in geology from Kent State University, a M.S. in geology from the Institute for Creation Research
            John Woodmorappe, geologist
            Dr. Tas Walker, Geology/Engineering
            Dr. Emil Silvestru, Geology
            Dr. Graeme Mortimer, Geologist
            Thomas Burnet (1635–1715) Geology
            William Whiston (1667–1752) Physics, Geology
            Jean Deluc (1727–1817) Geology
            Henry Rogers (1808–1866) Geology
            Dr. Clifford Burdick, Geologist
            L. Merson Davies (1890–1960) Geology; Paleontology
            Paul Lemoine (1878–1940) Geology

            There is only two ways to respond to this, either concede that there are geologists who think that creation and a young earth are a better explanation for the things listed or commit the No True Scotsman fallacy.
            “The No True Scotsman fallacy involves discounting evidence that would refute a proposition, concluding that it hasn’t been falsified when in fact it has.”

            Science better supports a Biblical creation framework than an old-age earth or evolution framework.

          • Seriously? Dead people and AIG shills who stopped doing science as soon as they signed a statement of faith..

          • Danny Willis says

            So you’re going with the ad hoc attack and the No True Scotsman fallacy. That’s unfortunate but at least I know where you stand.

          • Danny Willis says

            Since you automatically dismiss anyone who believes in Creation as unable to perform proper science you are following the faith of “scientism” as well as Christianity. The question you must deal with is; when they contradict each other, which one will you give the ultimate authority to?

          • No. I dismiss people who sign a statement of faith that they will ONLY accept ONE conclusion as choosing not to do proper science. Science, to be science, has to be led where the evidence goes, not where a predetermined statement of faith will allow you to go.
            http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith

            That is the statement of faith of AIG, and it is section 4:6 that means that AIG do not do science.

          • Danny Willis says

            This is a statement of faith from the Humanist religion, it shows that some scientists reject God from the beginning, insisting that nature is self-existing. Now you must reject them as not practicing science as well.

            “Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be.”

            This religious document has original signatures of adherents such as Dr. Eugenie Scott, Dr. Richard Dawkins, and Ed Kagin, revealing their bias for the teaching of their religion of humanism in the classroom. Rally for Reason also openly links to Dr. Scott’s organization, the National Center for Science Education, and has a letter by Mr. Kagin.

            Consider the quote by fellow evolutionist Richard Lewontin:

            “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

            The problem is that everyone is biased, so we must figure out which way is the best bias. I’m going with the God of the Bible bias rather than the Humanists bias.

          • Danny Willis says

            Here is where you can check out who has signed this statement of faith so you know who else is compromising their scientific integrity by not following the evidence wherever it leads: http://www.americanhumanist.org/Who_We_Are/About_Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III/Notable_Signers

        • Danny – you simply have no idea. You said – “There is a difference between examining a burned out building and determining what the atmospheric conditions were billions of years before anyone was around to witness it.”

          The only difference is the amount of data, maybe. But the process is the same – collection of data, analysis of data, forming a hypothesis, testing it against other data (since it is historical science) etc etc.

          Don’t beliefve the Creationist lie that scientists (in my case, geologists) make up theories because we “do not want to belive the Bible”. That is Culture War nonsense.

          Theories and explanations are built on enourmous, and I mean, enourmous amounts of real data. A few mistakes have certainly occurred – and Creationists pound on those ceaselessly. but science does not pretend to be faultless, or stationary. But the way these Creationists operate would be like taking the Encyclopedia Britannica, quibling with the sentence structure of one or two sentences, or pund on a typo, while blithely ignoring the vastness of the rest of the publication. It is dishonest, and may I add, unChristian.

          • Danny Willis says

            How can the process be the same when one can not re-create something that occurred millions or billions of years ago? I understand that one can study current phenomenon and extrapolate into the past to get an idea of what has occurred in the unknown past.

            A good example is the original assumption that the Grand Canyon was formed over an extremely long period of time with relatively little water. But with the study of the Mt. St. Helens eruption along with other canyons formed by centralized floods we can now conclude that the Grand Canyon was more likely to be formed with an extremely large amount of water over a relatively small amount of time.

            AIG admits that the evidence is not the issue as we have the same fossils, strata, oceans, canyons and earth. The real debate is with the stories assigned to them. I’ll take the story from the God who knows everything, can not lie and has given us his
            Word (literally) rather than the stories of men who are fallible and in need of a Savior.

            As far as the lie that scientists make up theories, what about these quotes:

            ‘Science, fundamentally, is a game. It is a game with one overriding and defining rule. Rule No. 1: Let us see how far and to what extent we can explain the behaviour of the physical and material universe in terms of purely physical and material causes, without invoking the supernatural.’ Richard Dickerson an authority in chemical evolution and a professing theist.

            ‘… as a matter of fact, creationism should be discriminated against. … No advocate of such propaganda should be trusted to teach science classes or administer science programs anywhere or under any circumstances. Moreover, if any are now doing so, they should be dismissed.’ Patterson, J.W., Do scientists and scholars discriminate unfairly against creationists? Journal of the National Center for Science Education, p. 19, Fall (Autumn) 1984

            ‘Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit in this one complaint. . . the literalists [i.e., creationists] are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.’ Michael Ruse, professor of history and philosophy and author of The Darwinian Revolution (1979), Darwinism Defended (1982), and Taking Darwin Seriously (1986)

            ‘We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’ Professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist and author of a number of books on Darwinian theory.

            Looks like there is enough evidence to say that a rejection of God does play a role. (I understand that this does not prove that everyone is against God, but the Bible does say he who is not for us is against us.)

          • Danny – I’m sorry, but if you keep on repeating the pseudo-science these people promote, then debate becomes impossible.

            I’d rather refer you to the blog of my friend Kevin, who has, over a long time, analysed the theories of AIG and others, and showed how they ignore evidence, and manufacture stories. His blog is at – http://geochristian.wordpress.com/. He is a bit more irenical than I am 😉

            I can also read my own blog, as I have recently started posting on these issues.

          • Danny Willis says

            Debate would still be possible if you presented a logical argument against the AIG claims instead of logical fallacies.

            I checked out the blog of your friend Kevin and it wasn’t long before I found his bias: I personally make no commitment to a specific view, except to say that I rule out the calendar day interpretation based on external evidence (keeping in mind that all truth is God’s truth).

            He admits that “external evidence” is authoritative enough to convince him that the Bible couldn’t possibly mean day when it says day. And his argument that all truth is God’s truth (I’m assuming meaning he agrees with Hugh Ross’ claim that nature is the 67th book of the Bible) is flawed because the Bible says that all of creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, that because of man’s sin, his dominion was cursed, and nature says that the present is the key to the past, the sun is the giver of life and dead men stay dead.

            Accusing AIG of ignoring evidence and manufacturing stories is different from citing examples of them doing so. His critiques are similar to yours in that there is no arguments, just statements of accusation.

          • Danny, I am sorry, but you are missing the arguments. Kevin has had many posts (read the archives), stating a Creationist thesis, then discussing it against the evidence.

            If you read my blog, you’d know I come from a creationist background. I do encourage you to actually investigate.

            Regarding my background: http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com/2010/10/reason-faith-and-evidence-or-why-i.html

            If you read any of Kevin’s posts regarding AIG, read the following:

            http://geochristian.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/six-bad-arguments-from-answers-in-genesis-part-6/

            It is part 6 of 6 part series, with the others linked.

            Also this one:

            http://geochristian.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/aluminum-and-the-100-year-old-oceans/

          • Danny Willis says

            Ok, I found and read the arguments your friend Kevin has made against Dr. Snelling’s view on the flood geology. I have to say that he does a good job of providing details and does seem to have a good knowledge of the subject.

            There is one point that Kevin has definitely proved (prepare your eye-roll), it is less about the evidence than it is about the stories assigned to the evidence. Several times he appeals to the “standard geological explanations” as the best explanation. AIG consistently points out that the evidence is the same it’s the stories that are different. If the debate is about which story is true then there should be less referring to one story as the standard and more emphasis on whether or not the stories can stand on their own. Kevin seemed to start from the assumption that the “standard geological explanations” are correct and any explanation that also works can not be true because the standard explanation works too.

            He knows his stuff but he is ignoring his biases. At least AIG openly admits their bias.

      • Except that you CAN test what you are referring to as “historical science”. If I look at some evidence of a plane crash, and it leads me to a conclusion, I would then think “Hmmm… if that i the reason the plane crashed, I would expect to see THIS on the underside of the tree over there. Oh.. it isnt there.. I was probably wrong.. lets get back to it.” Similarly with evolutionary biology.. biologists can say “If we think that the whale evolved like this, then we would expect to see this fossil in this sort of place. And look! We did! Hurrah for us! Tea and cake all round!”

        • actually you can’t in the same way you can in “real” time. You can do all sorts of simulations, make guesses and see if they’re confirmed, etc, but you can’t actually go back in time to see what *really* happened in the same way that you can conduct an experiment right now to test a theory. No matter how well your hypotheses seem to fit the observed evidence—and I’m not arguing that there’s anything wrong with historical science—you simply are fundamentally unable to go back and do the same kind of tests that you can with “forward looking” science. Historical science is a valid, reasonably trustworthy endeavour but I do think there is a valid distinction to be made.

    • I have three thoughts:

      1. Unless one simply explains it all away as “created with the appearance of age,” I find the evidence for an old earth, and an even older universe, to be compelling.

      2. My understanding of the genre of the first few chapters of the book of Genesis not only allows for a non-literal understanding of the 6 days of creation, but seems to encourage it.

      3. When Ken Ham, and those of his ilk, are willing to ackowledge my faith and quit claiming that by not buying into YEC I’m on some slippery slope towards . . . what, secular humanism? Liberalism? . . . then I will be willing to pursue matters farther. But as long as the rabid YEC types insist on questioning my faith, considering me to be anything from deceived to unsaved, there’s really nothing to discuss.

      • Danny Willis says

        First of all let me encourage you to read some of the AIG website. You will see that they do not question anyone’s faith based on whether or not they accept Genesis as written. They make it clear that salvation is based on acceptance of Christ alone. They do take exception to those that compromise with scripture (the same thing this site does) but they do not question one’s salvation, in fact the often go out of their way to point out that there is good reason to believe someone is saved despite their compromise. The key is to go to scripture to see if the compromise accusation is true or not.

        One other thing caught my eye in your last paragraph, that you are offended when someone thinks you are being deceived. We are all deceived at some point. The Bible is full of believers who were deceived at different times even while being unquestionably saved. Its part of having a sinful nature and having an enemy that wants to destroy us. I hope that you might consider heeding someone’s warnings of deception and investigate before dismissing them as attacking you.

        In response to the “appearance of age” idea. It is interesting to take note that the concept of appearing “old” can only be done if one has something of known age to compare it to. We can say that a person looks like they are 80 because we have people who are known to be 80 in which to reference. Same with saying a 40 woman looks like she is 25 or 30. Since we have a large pool of women who are 25-30 years old to compare her to, then we can accurately say how old she looks.

        The universe though, has no other universe of known age to compare it to, so the idea that it appears to be old is baseless.

        I actually find the evidence for a young earth and universe compelling. Examples include: population growth rates in humans; stars loss of energy; spiral galaxies; the moon pulling away from the earth; the ocean’s salinity rate; the horizon problem; comets; radiometric dating methods published by the RATE group; Mount St. Helens and the Grand Canyon. These can all support a young earth view, but the greatest is a straightforward reading of the Word of God and understanding the genealogies at up to only thousands of years. The evidence is actually the same for an old-earth view, but it is the starting assumptions that influence the conclusion more.

        For the record, I am on board with Ken Ham and AIG’s view on Genesis and I have no reason to claim that you are not saved or will yourself turn away from God. I did not believe in a YEC view when I was saved and it had no affect on my salvation or my walk, but it is no longer myself that I am concerned with. The big picture is that if people in the church say that one doesn’t have to believe the Bible when it talks about a 6 day creation week or a global flood, then why can’t one also reject that a man was God, died and was resurrected and is the only way to get into heaven. Your salvation is secure, but might you be setting up someone else to deny Christ?

        • You’re right inasmuch as appearance of age isn’t the issue (how old should we expect an instantaneously created, mature, fully functional earth look like anyway?). The real issue is an appearance of false history:

          “Young-earth advocates counter that Creation had to have the appearance of age, without deception, because Adam, mature forests, and even flowing rivers would all of necessity have the appearance of age. This confuses maturity with history. A miraculously created tree might well appear mature, but apparent age arguments suggest that if Adam cut down several of these trees, he may have found 50 growth rings with matching patterns of variable growth and burn marks at rings 21 and 43. These data represent not just maturity or age but history–a history that never actually occurred. This is not the Creator described in Romans 1. We may not always have a complete understanding of the history revealed in the earth’s layers, but Reformed theology should insist it is a real history.”

          see: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1137&var3=issuedisplay&var4=IssRead&var5=112

          Another analogy (credit Gordon Glover): Jesus makes wine aged to perfection in an instant. Deception? Nope. But what if, in addition to the wine (which appeared aged, but in fact was created out of h2o only moments before) Jesus also made empty wine skins nearby, and a receipt recording a transaction at a local winery? That’s the difference between a necessary appearance of age and a wholly unnecessary and misleading false history.

          • Danny Willis says

            There is a problem with assuming that God made everything with the appearance of age if it insists that a false history is attached to it. This is why the idea that God made the light from the stars “in transit” should be discarded.

            The straight forward reading of Genesis does suggest that God made everything mature. To assign that he was unable to do so without adding false signs of aging (such as insisting that trees had their annual rings including signs of fires) is not something that originates from the text as the example of Jesus and the wine shows. Since we do not have the original trees to analyze (the world that was has been destroyed) then we have no way to confirm such an assumption.

            The evidence is not the problem, it is the assumptions and stories attached to them. When people assume that the fossil record is a sign of long ages or counter that God only made them to appear that way, they are not using observational science (which supports a catastrophe such as a world wide flood making the deposits) and instead assigning stories and calling it “science”.

          • Another analogy (credit Gordon Glover): Jesus makes wine aged to perfection in an instant. Deception? Nope.

            I have always liked this event. I like wine. I really, really like fine wine. That must of been some vintage, although the style of wine then much different that what we drink today.

            However, if that event itself was a ‘miracle’ by definition or something outside the usual physical observable experential laws, then are we saying that ‘creation’ was a miracle if there was nothing to reference it with? I suppose God can play fast & loose with the ‘now’ recognized physical laws & the empirical measurements that can be made.

            Since wine is not a naturally occuring product, but a man-made, very labor intensive, manipulation of bio-chemistry, what is the commonality to the creation of our observable existence vs. the time element it is measured with?

            I’m just writing out loud here. There had to be an understanding of making wine in ‘real’ time to recognize the miracle of water into wine by Jesus with witnesses standing around.

            If God created just our earth & the creatures inhabiting this jeweled orb in 6 days (an implied ‘measurable’ chronological scale) with the wonders of the rest of the known universe ‘appearing’ to be old just to fool the heathen scientists that claim it is? But if He can be known thru this fantastic creation of His, why trust in the constants we do accept?

            Seems to me that God is the inconsistent One with the manner which He went about doing His creating. The discrepancy deliberate as the litmus test for believing everyhing else written after the 3rd chapter of Genesis?

            That was God’s intent? And Moses’ too? And the Hebrew tradition? And early church tradition?

            I’m going to lunch…

          • Danny Willis says

            Joseph, the majority of miracles are easy to identify for the reason that you stated, it’s outside the usual physical observable experiential laws. Water to wine, water to blood, walking on water, feeding 5000, healing the blind and the lame, parting the seas and rivers etc.

            The difference between other miracles and the creation week is that we don’t have established natural laws to precede the miracle. One important thing to consider is that most origins theories come down to the idea that either God is eternal, or matter is eternal. If we expect physical laws to precede the creation week then it is consistent with the idea that matter is eternal. The Bible tells us that God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, he is from everlasting to everlasting. It makes it clear that He is eternal even in the first verse, “In the beginning God…” There is no need to explain his origin if he always has existed.

            The creation week is outside of the physical laws that we have today because it was when God set it all in motion. The beginning of Genesis 2 states several times that God “creative” work was finished in that first week. His redemptive work started soon after when Adam and Eve rebelled against him and ended when Christ said on the cross “it is finished”. Now he is in his restorative work preparing his people for his return when he establishes the new heavens and the new earth.

            We can use the observable physical laws today to easily see that the creation week was a miracle and to stand in awe of the God who performed it.

  10. Cedric Klein says

    Here’s a possible reconciliation of YEC & Ancient Earth/Universe Science….

    the Fall was NOT only Spiritual-Moral & did not only bring on Decay, Disease & Death (Entropy) but also threw us into a Time-Space warp in which 6000 years became 4-5by for Earth & 13-14by for the Universe. Adam&Eve were originally within the Glory of God, which was in the Eternal Timeless State, when they fell from the Glory, they fell from Eternal Timelessness & therefore backwards in time, taking the Earth & Universe with them.

    No, I am not serious, and no, I did not come up with that with the assistance of a bong or any other drug-delivery method. But I do not blame anyone for wondering.

    • DreamingWings says

      Not unduly weird. I could see some excellent science fiction, in the C.S. Lewis vein, running from your premise.

      • Cedric Klein says

        Actually, so can I. Btw, for the record, I’m an OEC who makes concessions to some degree to Theistic Evolution. I believe that Adam & Eve were our first parents & were perhaps the founders of the first tribe of humans to have ChildOfGod potential (homo Divinus perhaps?) & that if so, this tribe has assimilated all other tribes of humans before them (i.e. there are no non-Adamites now).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Premise sounds like “Schrodinger’s Cat on a Cosmic scale”.

        As well as being completely untestable.

  11. I am with Steve Newell (if I have parsed his comment rightly, what with the lack of punctuation) in that I think the problem is not between faith and science, but between faith in God on the one hand, and the pseudo-religion of “scientism”.

    As JeffB pointed out, Christians believe (among other things) in the existence of God, life after death, and the resurrection of Christ; while science cannot disprove these things, it has no explanation for them, either, and for many who call themselves “scientists” this is enough reason to deny that they could be true. That, however, is not science but scientism, and is as much a religion as Christianity or Islam. It is, moreover, a religion whose inherent moral values are based on “what is possible is permissible” which leads to the kinds of proposals put forth by the “new atheists” for dealing with religious believers.

    • Good point, Wolf, to emphasize that it’s really scientism that’s the problem. Although in principle science is neutral to things like life after death (“Those aren’t the kinds of things science is interested in or engaged with” in CM’s words above), my experience is that the pseudo-religious culture of scientism which is widely pervasive is actively materialistic and goes out of its way to try to “debunk” the idea of life after death. I speak as someone with a physics PhD who has spent plenty of time interacting with other scientists. I agree with CM that I don’t need the weatherman to tell me that the snowfall is from God, but I don’t think science as actually practiced and the current “culture” of science is really neutral to things like life after death. Neutral or antagonistic, this is one area where I believe Christians must stand on faith and revelation alone.

    • Danny Willis says

      I agree with you that “scientism” is the real problem. Its unfortunate that many Christians don’t recognize that and instead either reject all science (although I have yet to meet someone that has done so) or they embrace it to the point that it can often overrule scripture.

      We should affirm the truths that empirical science has given but understand that science is often changing while the Word of God is everlasting.

    • Eddie Scizzard says

      no. exactly wrong. I don’t deny any of those things. I just have no reason to believe them. There’s an infinite number of things I don’t have evidence for. Should I just accept them all?

      • Danny Willis says

        I think there needs to be a little clarification. You say you don’t deny any of those things and that you just have no reason to believe them.

        Do you or do you not believe the main tenets of the Christian faith, that Jesus is God, that he died and was resurrected and that through Him we have life after death?

      • I think the point being made is that scientific evidence is not the only kind of evidence. No, you shouldnt believe something without evidence. But, yes, we often are justified in believing something without scientific evidence. If married, you may have not have scientific evidence of your wife’s faithfulness, but hopefully you believe it on other grounds.

  12. To torpedo faith is to destroy the roots of any system of knowledge. I challenge anyone to construct an argument proving reason’s legitimacy without presupposing it . Faith is the base, completely unavoidable. Get used to it. It’s the human condition. (All of us, not just believers, see through a glass darkly.)
    Religious thought may be vulnerable on any number of fronts, but it is not vulnerable to the criticism that in contrast to scientific or empirical thought, it rests on mere faith.

    (from Daniel’s link above)

  13. What “sin” did the amino acid chains that began forming the building blocks of life “commit” that resulted in death so that simple pre-life could progress from these building blocks to humanity? If death is the result of sin and we are being redeemed from sin, death, and the devil, then these earliest forms must have been responsible for the fall.

    Without sin and the fall, Christianity falls apart. Sure you can believe in a deity who uses evolutionary processes to bring about life – but a god isn’t necessary in such a scenario, and you also lose death being the result of sin. The unnecessary deity imposed on evolution by some surely does not punish with death — She uses it for Her creation processes. This Goddess Earth is completely foreign to the Christian idea of sin and death. And survival of the fittest does not seem to jive with helping those less fortunate. A god who would use death to perfect her creation seems rather the opposite of a loving caring heavenly father. She’s more of a cruel task master perfecting her work by killing off the weak.

    Lest you ascribe creationist views to only simple backwoods evangelical fundamentalists – the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod also believes Genesis – read the pdf on this page – http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=524 Perhaps you only need to expand your view of backwoods fundamentalists to include high Church liturgical believers who have one of the largest private schooling systems in the country?

    These are just my thoughts off the top of my head, there are surely others who have more persuasively presented the same ideas I lay out here – but people will hold on to cherished philosophies no matter how contradictory. Perhaps others are just better at reconciling dissonant ideas than myself.

    • DreamingWings says

      When it comes to ‘survival of the fittest’; the fittest, longest lasting, and powerful species are the ones that form cooperative collective groups and take care of each other. Whether its humans, other primates, wolves, lions, hyaenas, dolphins, wales, etc. The idea that belief in evolution in any form requires some sort of pseudo-Nietzscheian doctrine of ‘I got mine and the devil take the hindmost’ to be ‘fit for survival’ is simply incorrect.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The idea that belief in evolution in any form requires some sort of pseudo-Nietzscheian doctrine of ‘I got mine and the devil take the hindmost’ to be ‘fit for survival’ is simply incorrect.

        In his essay “Kropotkin was No Crackpot”, Gould writes that the societies of the time (mid-Victorian) influenced the details of how Darwin was viewed (and “expanded” with corollaries into Social Darwinism).

        England: Small, densely-populated island, in the throes of the Industrial Revolution and all its side effects. The competition for survival and advancement WAS a pseudo-Nietzcheian “I Got Mine”, with social class and riches the indicator of Evolutionary Success. (And a Victorian pull towards slow gradual progress after the runaway hyperviolence of the French Revolution.)

        Russia: HUGE, sparsely-populated continent with dangerous wildlife and killer climate (especially during its legendary winters). Instead of competing with each other for individual success, people (especially in the HUGE wilderness of the Siberian frontier) HAD to band together and cooperate against the common enemies of Wild and Winter. The pressure was entirely in the other direction than the runaway industrial capitalism of England and Western Europe, despite Russia’s even more rigid and harsh class/caste system.

  14. “Scientific knowledge, though always developing and being refined, is not deeply flawed.”

    I think that statement is ambiguous.

    I would have to modify that to read “Most [or at least a good deal of] scientific knowledge…is [probably] not deeply flawed [just superficially flawed].” Or perhaps distinguish between scientific knowledge and the real rub here, which is really all about the epistemology undergirding modern scientific knowledge and not scientific knowledge per se.

    Por ejemplo, is methodological naturalism a necessary evil or something we could do without? Does it give us skewed answers? How well do those assumptions explain the way things really are? THAT is the hinge of these debates. It’s no secret that many YECs, especially AiG, are unflinchingly presuppositional in their apologetics, whereas most people who take a more evidentialist route almost always end up embracing some form of evolution or, at the very least, OEC (which I suppose makes me an oddball since I don’t particularly care for evidentialism, though evidence surely has its place).

    Other than that, the other statements are pretty innocuous.

  15. Hi Chaplain Mike,

    I think that Bruce Waltke’s view is OK and the preesure brought on him to resign is the Seminary’s loss. It seems to me that too much of American Evangelicalism is YEC and intolerant of theistic evolution. In the early 20th. century Jame Orr held to theistic evolution and wrote some pamphlets for the Fundamentals. It seems that in 1910 there might have been greater tolerance thyan there is now.

    Why can’t we have a more open evangelicalism when it comes to the bible and science?

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

    • Danny Willis says

      Hello John Arthur,

      I am glad you are wanting tolerance but I think you have misunderstood something. It is not just YECers who reject theistic evolution, but evolutionists as well. They seem to be more accepting of it because they need the pastors and teachers who believe in it to influence their Christian brothers and sisters. The evolutionists will still have their view taught because the theistic evolutionists are sacrificing the Bible when it disagrees with evolutionary science. It is an unnecessary compromise as this story illustrates: http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v22/i4/horse_tractor.asp

      I assume it is okay to be intolerant of other religious views that claim different ways to heaven. If so, then the problem of being intolerant isn’t the issue, it is really why one is intolerant (is it because of what God has stated or because they just have personal feelings).

      God Bless,

      Danny Willis

  16. Hi Chaplain Mike,

    Sorry for the spelling errors above. It comes from rushing too much. Thanks for the great discussion on IMonk. This kind of dicussion should occur in more of our churches and more often.

    Regards,
    John Arthur

  17. Hi Danny Willis,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Many Evangelical christians who are theistic evolutionists clearly interpret the first 2 chapters of Genesis differently from YECs. They do not see themselves as sacrificing the bible as you claim. From a YEC view it may seem like they are sacrificing the bible on the alter of evolution. Evangelical theistic evolutionists believe that they are being faithful to the bible and science.

    My plea for greater tolerance has to do with trying to understand one another and why we accept our different positions. Evangelical theistic evolutionists seem to accept the supreme authority of the bible in all matters of faith and conduct. This was true of James Orr. Benjamin Warfield ( who held to verbal inspiration and the inerrancy of the bible in the original manuscripts) agreed that evolution was not inconsistent with Calvinism (See his article in the Princeton Theological Review of April 1912).

    If YECs gain control of the Evangelical movement, then I am on the way out because their magazines are propagating an intolerance towards evangelicals who differ from them.
    There would be no room for people like James Orr in the coming YEC dominated evangelicalism.

    We should all distinguish between the inspiration of the bible and its interpretaiton. I know Evangelical churches where it is considered hersey to believe in anything other than YEC. It is not only Theistic evolutionists who are not tolerated but Old Earth Creationists. If the militants within the YEC gain control of the evangelical movement, then Old Earth creationists like Millard Erickson would be outed. Heaven help us!

    Shalom,
    John Arthur

    • Excellent comment, John. I heartily concur.

    • amen!

    • Danny Willis says

      Dear John Arthur,

      I appreciate your reply and I understand your concern.

      I am unaware of the YEC militants you speak of. The statements of AIG show that they fully accept that someone can be a Christian without accepting the young-earth view for salvation. They even speak of how influential a teacher is even though they disagree about a YEC view. They are even well aware that past church fathers have had no issue accepting evolution along with the Bible. But there are also past church fathers that reject evolution and long ages, so where does that leave us.

      I mentioned before that tolerance for the sake of tolerance is not likely to be followed even by yourself. If someone of a different faith pleads with you to be tolerant of their faith, what will you say? I’m confident that you will accept them as a person and point out that they might actually be good according to the world’s standards but they are incorrect in thinking that there is another way to heaven. They very well could accuse you of being intolerant, even if you accept them but reject this one view. I feel the same is true for your view on YECers.

      You may be thinking that the above is different because it is about salvation and the inspiration of the Bible and if so, then I think you might need to understand the YECs (AIG in particular) view on the importance of Genesis. They will happily concede that Salvation through Christ (the Good News) is the most important thing in the Gospel, but that it doesn’t make any sense without a literal garden, Adam, fall and curse (the Bad News).

      It is not the old-earthers and theistic evolutionists salvation that most YECers are worried about. The Biblically consistent ones will heartily agree that as long as one has faith in Christ, they will be saved. What worries the YECers such as myself and AIG is the affect they could have on the people they witness to. Most people today are closer to the “Greeks” of Acts 17 than they are the “Jews” of Acts 2 and yet the majority of evangelism is aimed at the “Jewish” people. If one is told they don’t have to take Genesis, the creation week, the global flood at its word, then why can’t they reject the virgin birth of God in a babe’s body, His death and resurrection and him being the only way to heaven? Surely this is a valid concern.

      There is a valid reason the YECers are intolerant of any view other than a plain straightforward reading of Genesis and the Bible, just like there is a valid reason for Christians to be intolerant of any other claim to get into heaven, they are both recorded in the Bible. If the creation week is not to be taken as written, then what chapter and verse begins the true Word of God?

      God Bless,
      Danny Willis

      • Danny, what you have to quit saying is “plain straightforward reading of Genesis and the Bible.” The “plain, straightforward reading” of an ancient text by someone in the 21st century has a multitude of unrecognized assumptions that will cause one to read the text in ways no original reader would ever have imagined. Plus, you seem to have a number of presuppositions about the nature of the Bible and inerrancy that not all “Bible believers” hold. What you have to see is that your interpretation is really an interpretation, not a “plain, straightforward reading.”

        • Danny Willis says

          That claim sounds similar to the early Catholic church saying that the common people are unable to understand the scriptures and instead must rely on the teachings of the church to know what is written.

          In William Tyndale’s time it was against church law to own even a scrap of paper with scripture on it, yet as the first person to translate the Greek scriptures into English he stated his purpose, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years, I will make the boy that driveth the plough shall know more of scripture than thou doest.”

          Scripture is meant to be understood, if their truly is a “multitude of unrecognized assumptions that will cause one to read the text in ways no original reader would ever have imagined”, then how is it possible to consider the Bible as trustworthy? Is there a specific passage in the Bible that says what parts are meant to be understood as written?

          I will continue to let the scripture speak for itself rather than get it through a 21st century theologian’s translation of English to “what they really meant English”.

          • Danny, if you stop and think about it, you are proving the old Catholic accusation against the Protestants – instead of one pope, there are now 200 million of them.

            But let me quote you some of the church fathers:

            “4.3.1 Now what man of intelligence will believe that the first and the second and the third day, and the evening and the morning existed without the sun and moon and stars? . . . I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not through actual events.”
            Origen, On First Principles 4.3.1

            “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of the world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [quoting 1 Tim 1:7].”
            (The Literal Meaning of Genesis, written in about AD 415. Noll, pp. 202-203, from the John Hammond Taylor translation of 1982)

            You see, non-literal readings of Genesis 1 was common in the ancient church – and ancient Judaism – Philo of Alexandria was not a literalist either.

          • Your comment does not at all reflect what I said. I’m simply insisting that every generation must understand the assumptions it brings to a text when it reads it.

            As a very simple example, when you and I read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” we have in our mental libraries pictures of the cosmos taken from the Hubble telescope, photos of the earth taken from the moon, all kinds of concepts of the “universe” (a word, by the way, which no ancient near eastern person would understand)—in a word, centuries of scientific information and concepts that are completely foreign to the ancient text of the Bible. The first readers of Genesis had no concept of the “earth” as a planet or globe. When they heard “heavens and earth,” they would have understood that from a phenomenological perspective. Picture a person looking out over a landscape, waving his hand and saying, “God created all this—the skies and the land.” That would be a “straightforward and plain reading” of the text. And that is just the start of reading Genesis. Even Calvin understood that what Genesis 1 had to say about the sun and moon was contradicted by what astronomers in his own day said about the stars and planets, and he reconciled that by affirming that Moses was not writing from the same perspective as they were.

            And don’t even get me started on trying to understand Genesis in the context of the Torah, the fivefold book it introduces. Any reading of Genesis that says it speaks to modern scientific categories is neglecting what it would have said to the Israelites who received it as a part of Moses’ larger message to them.

            To insist on this is not to take the Bible away from anyone. It is asking us to put ourselves in the shoes (sandals) of its first readers and try as best we can to hear it from their perspective. That is a basic principle of reading any text.

          • Danny Willis says

            Singular Observer, I do not deny that there were some early church fathers that rejected a literal reading of Genesis, just as I do not deny that most scientists and many church leaders today reject the plain statements of Genesis. The argument AIG and myself bring is that they are incorrect.

            Here are some quotes from the church fathers:
            Basil of Caesarea, “”Let us reject these theories as dreams and old wives tales. Let us understand that by water, water is meant; for the dividing of the waters by the firmament let us accept the reason that has been given to us.” relating to Origen’s views that the waters were spiritual and incorporeal powers.

            He also states this in rejecting Origen’s view: “I know the laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others. There are those, truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own end.”

            Martin Luther, “Moses writes that God created Heaven and Earth and whatever is in them in six days . . . . If you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”

            Jesus Mark 10:6 “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.'” (Only makes sense in a young earth view)

            Now we have examples from both sides, so where do we go from hear. As I said before, the issue isn’t whether or not people before us have believed in a young or old earth (there were both, as there always has been) the issue is about which one is true. I do not fault anyone for teaching what they believe is true, but I am free to disagree and give my reasons, even if they are rejected.

          • Danny Willis says

            Chaplain Mike, I actually agree that every generation brings assumptions with it when it reads the text. I would state that my assumptions are the following: God can communicate clearly, God says what he means, God provided the Bible to tell us our history, God intended for his Word to be understood by everyone, not just the highly educated.

            I think that you may have forgotten the assumptions that you are bringing to the text. Many people make their assumptions known by saying things like, “It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of the Genesis record, without regard to all of the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created heaven and earth in six solar days” (Dr. Pattle P.T. Pun, Wheaton College science department). I would say that your assumptions about the authority of science affects your view of the scriptures the same way that my approach of letting God tell me what He did leads me to believe the Bible as written.

            My last point is that there is an idea that the men of yesterday weren’t able to comprehend all we know today, but that is based on an evolutionary assumption that intelligence increases over time. The Bible shows the opposite, that man was highly intelligent from the beginning, able to develop bronze and iron working, making tents, instruments and cities within the first generation of people. I personally like the idea that the Bible was written for small minded people, but it wasn’t our ancestors, it was us.

            • Danny, I am going to bow out of this discussion. You are not hearing what I am saying at all, and you keep repeating the same inadequate answers. You are so convinced that you have a water-tight case for your position that at this point you are apparently incapable of getting outside the little box you are in. I’ve had too many of these fruitless, frustrating discussion with YEC people. When the mind is set, the ears can’t hear.

              You are free to converse with others here, but you and I are in completely different places at the moment, and further discussion would accomplish nothing.

  18. Hi Danny Willis,

    Thanks for your comments. I am not concerned about YEC’s who accept other viewpoints as being within the evangelical range, but the militant wing that can brook no differences over Genesis. I don’t classify you in the intolerant class.

    My concern is about the pressure brought on godly professors of the OT to resign. Most OT scholars including evangelical ones do not hold to the YEC view of Genesis 1 and 2. They see scientific creationism and naturalistic evolution as “category” mistakes. Genesis 1 is a polemic against pagan deities and affirms Israel’s God as the only God and Creator.They see it as an attack on the astral deities of ancient Babylon. and not as a literal acoount telling us something about science.

    The Genesis 2:4b-2:25 account of creation has a different oder of events to Gen.1:-2:4a and there is no 7 day sequence. God is spoken of in anthrpological terms whereas this does not occur in the first account. In Gen.2 it is Baal, the fertlilty God of Canaan that is attacked.

    Gen1 and 2 are not meant to be interpreted literally. They are pre-scientific statements (but not anti-scientific) and their lierary genre is poetic.

    Bob E. Patterson has a worthwhile article called “modern Science and Contemporary Biblical Interpretation” and it may be found in Perspectives on Theology in the Contemporary World: Essays in Honour of Bernard Ramm (ed. Stanley Grenz.) (Mercer Press 1990).

    All Evangelical scholars accept the reliablility of the biblical message and accept Genesis 1 and 2 but the literal interpretaion doesn’t seem to deal adequately with the literaray genre of these chapters.

    Many blessings to you .

    Shalom
    John Arthur

    • Danny Willis says

      Dear John Arthur,

      I think that if a godly professor is confronted by someone who thinks they are committing heresy that they should check themselves to see if it is true. Most often the response is that it “doesn’t matter” or we should “just agree to disagree”. Although the truth of whether or not the Earth is old or young is not of ultimate importance, it is very important and should be taken more seriously.

      Can you explain why you believe that Genesis 1 is a “polemic against pagan deities”? By definition, doesn’t it require at least a mention of who it is against? I agree that it is not a “literal account telling us something about science” as the claim by AIG and myself is that it is telling about history (a different way of gaining knowledge than practicing science). Often the claim is used that the Biblical account of the Creation week tells us “why” God made things, not “how”, but the language used gives no explanations (save for the sun, moon and stars), only a step by step account of God speaking things into existence.

      I admit that one can use the first chapters in Genesis to refute the claims of pagan deities, but it seems as if the actual text carries a different purpose.

      Dr. Henry Morris makes a great point about the differences between Genesis 1-2:4a and Genesis 2:4b-5:1. The original author of the second section was likely to be Adam as noted with the “toledoth” (This is the book of the generations of Adam) as the book’s closing. The author of the first section is not given to anyone specific as God himself was the only one present, thus it is the only “toledoth” (of eleven) that doesn’t have a human name attached (Genesis 2:4a).

      If this is true then one would expect a different perspective and different vocabulary used in the two passages. The subject of the second section is man and the events of the sixth day. There is no reason why all of the creation week needed to be recapped, only the parts that applied to the creation of man and man’s activities on the sixth day. We can also see a change in language as God (Elohim) is now referred to as LORD God (Jehovah Elohim). The anthropological terms describing God and his actions are consistent with a new author in Adam. And again, if it were an attack on Baal, why is there no mention of him?

      I disagree with the claim that Gen 1 and 2 are not meant to be interpreted literally and that they are poetic. The language is consistent with historical narratives found in the rest of Genesis as well as Exodus, Kings, Chronicles, and Samuel. There is little in the text (other than evening, morning, number, day) to suggest a poetic reading. The Psalm’s and Proverbs are full of similes, hyperbole and symbolism that is clear in the way it is written and translated. Genesis is written in the way a student might recount their summer vacation.

      The term “pre-scientific” should not affect the validity of Genesis as a historical narrative. In Latin “scientia” means “knowledge” but historia means, “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation”. Using a history book should be a very good way of knowing what occurred at the beginning, especially if we believe it to be the Word of God. Science is not the only way of knowing.

      My hope is that you will entertain the above ideas and consider that a YEC view may have more support than many realize.

      May God Bless you in your conversations,

      Danny Willis

  19. Hi Danny,

    Great to hear from you. I appreciate your point of view but I have problems with a literal-historical understanding of Genesis 1 &2. These misgivings are both from science and biblical scholarship.

    If I were to go into any of the 36 universities in Australia and ask the staff of the physics departments the following questions:

    How old is the universe? Overwhelmingly, they will teld me it is something in the order of 14 or so billion years old, not 6-10 thousand years.

    How old is the sun? Answer, approximately 5 billion years old, not 6-10 thousand years.

    If I was also to visit both the physics and geology departments and ask , how old is the earth? Answer, about 4.5 billion years, not 6-10 thousand years.

    If I then visited the biology and anthropology departments and asked the question: when did humans first appear on earth? Answer, approximately 2 billion years ago and homo sapiens about 100,000 to150,000 years ago.

    If a ‘naive’ literal-historical interpretation is the only acceptable interpretation of the bible, then either the scientists or the YECs have made a huge mistake. Most students of science would then say that the bible is complete nonesense. And I know of several evangelicals who were taught that YEC is the only acceptable innterpretation of Genesis. When they completed their scientific studies they threw the bible overboard. They began following people like Richard Dawkins not because he holds to evolutionism (not just biological evoution) but because they saw the glaring inconsistencies between science and YEC.

    Most biblical scholars to not hold to a naive literal-historical and pre-crtical understanding of Genesis 1 &2.

    If you go into your nearest decent theological seminary, you will find many commentaries on Genesis. Claus Westerman is a good one from a historico-critical perspective and Gordon Wenham’s commentary is a good one from an evangelical perspective.

    Belief in the historicity of Genesis 1-2 does not necessarily entail a literal understanding of every portion of these chapters. I believe in their history but as many Catholic scholars view it, it is allegorical history.

    I sugest a good book on biblical hermeneutics such as the one by Grant Osborne. I think it was called the “Hermeneutic Spiral” but iI cannot remember exactly. You stated in one of your posts that the scriptures are “clear” as a justification for the literal-historical method. The theology of the clarity of the scriptures is best set forth in the Westminster Confession (I’m not a great fan of this Confession, but I think it is spot on here).

    “All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clealy propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in due use of ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” (I:vii)

    The theology of the clarity of the scriptures refers to the way of salvation and not to the relation between science and scripture.

    Danny, our differences are largley hermeneutitcal and also on how we relate science and scripture. Bernad Ramm talked about God’s two books: The book on nature which scientists study abd the bible which theologians study. When there are diferences in the 2 understandings, then either we have misinterpreted nature or we have misinterpreted the bible. Because all truth is God’s truth, let us try to find ways that best harminise God’s two books. ( Ramm:The Christian View of Science and Scripture).

    • Danny Willis says

      Hello John,

      Thank you again for your response. I can understand why people take issue with the idea of a young-earth since it is the opposite of what the majority of scientists will state as fact. The idea that either the scientists or YECers have made is huge mistake is absolutely true. You even state that you know of evangelicals who studied science then threw out the Bible. I’m hoping that you may take note that this is a common claim of AIG, that people are choosing the opinions of man (no matter how learned they are) over the Word of God.

      The next thought is probably about the reliability of science. I have two points: first, when you state at the end your post that “either we have misinterpreted nature or we have misinterpreted the bible. Because all truth is God’s truth, let us try to find ways that best harminise God’s two books. ( Ramm:The Christian View of Science and Scripture).” you are making a mistake. It is true that we can study nature and learn many things, but we must take into account what scripture says about it. It states that man’s dominion is cursed because of man’s sin, that all of creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, that one day the animals will dwell together again in peace. Nature says that man and apes share a common ancestor yet many Christians disagree (they can only do this if they put scripture ahead of nature, but what determines when nature is right and when scripture is right? God states in his word that he can not lie and that the scriptures are to judge the thoughts of men) There can harmony but one must trump the other and I believe it is scripture.

      The second point is that geology and the prominent idea of millions of years is only about 200 years old. The idea was developed by those that had no interest in considering what the Bible said on the subject, they just looked at the fossils and the strata and made their own conclusions. They were also the ones who taught the next generation of scientists that the world is millions of years old, so the story continued. It is no surprise that most scientists believe this as if they do not, they are immediately discounted as not being a true scientist (the No True Scotsman fallacy).
      Several creation ministries have scientists who have brought up issues with the assumptions of millions of years and there are many things that are better explained scientifically with a young earth than and old one. Instead of being taken seriously, they are automatically dismissed as loons, even those that merely question evolution can be demoted or shunned. This lends itself to the original problem of pride.

      The original fall was Satan forgetting his place with God and instead thinking that he determined truth, then he deceived Eve with the same idea, that she could determine what truth was. It is the same thing that is going on today, the church is making a huge mistake by thinking that man determines truth and that the scientists have conclusively found that the universe is much older than the 6000 years that the Bible alludes to.

      I agree that not everything is clear in scripture but I think it is us who are making it confusing. Where should the line be drawn since there are “Christians” who think that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven because they don’t think scripture is clear on the subject? If we are the ones who determine what is clear and what is misleading (a day couldn’t possibly be a day? really) then doesn’t that make us the ones who determine truth?

      Thank you for your continued discussion but I’m unsure how much further this conversation can go. I understand your points and will check out the writings that you suggested. I will also do my best to listen and understand those that disagree with me on Genesis, and as there are many, I will always have to entertain the idea that I am the one being mislead. Good luck and God Bless.

      Danny Willis

  20. Hi Danny,
    I am bowing out of this conversation. We just have a different set of control beliefs. May the God of overflowing compassion, mercy and lovingkindness revealed to us supremely in Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and risen Messiah inspire, uplift and encourage you on your life’s journey.

    It is Jesus who is the centre of our faith and he is more important than issues of science and faith. He is the way, the truth and the life. His way is the way of compassion. May he continue to fill your life to overflowing with his liberating joy and peace and may you be a blessing to all you meet.

    Thanks Chaplain Mike and all at IMonk for the wonderful and stimulating discussion.

    Shalom,
    John Arthur