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>The moon and the age of the earth

2009 December 15 6 comments

> In my defence of a young earth I wanted to address the philosophical issues which I think are foundational to the argument. Discussions that fail to identify these issues end up with proponents of an old earth indirectly defending their presuppositions as if they are conclusions.

Consider 2 dating systems that give contradictory results. Which do we take as preferable? They both cannot be true. One or neither is true. Frequently the position is taken that dating system A gives the correct result and dating system B in in error because of incorrect assumptions X, Y, and Z. But it may be just as reasonable to take B as the correct result and explain why A is in error. Unfortunately proponents of A fail to see the philosophical validity of this. And even if they do, their subsequent arguments still frequently assume A.

I am not saying that all systems are equally convincing in their arguments. Rather that if B can be questioned then so can A.

I anticipated giving further specific arguments in favour of a young earth, or at least against a 4 billion year old earth. One argument is the maximum age of the moon.

The moon is known to be receding from earth. The rate is currently about 4 cm per year, though it is decreasing; the moon receded more quickly in the past. The recession is due to a transfer of angular momentum from the earth to the moon. The loss of angular momentum on earth is due to ocean tidal friction.

If we calculate how long it would take the moon to get to its current position if the moon was initially at the surface of the earth we get a figure of ~1 billion years. This is the maximum possible age for the earth-moon system. It can be much younger than this.

This maximum age is slightly, but negligibly, shorter if we consider the Roche limit. The earth’s gravity exerts a force on the moon dependant on the distance of the moon from the earth. At a certain distance the force exerted from the earth on the near-side of the moon compared to the lesser force on the far-side of the moon is greater than the gravitational force holding the moon together. This is called the Roche limit. This ignores added force from any internal tensile strength that holds the moon together.

The Roche limit for the moon is ~18,000 km from the centre of the earth. The moon is currently ~384,000 km from the (centre of the) earth. The earth’s radius is ~6,300 km.

Categories: creationism, moon, science

>The ropens of Papua New Guinea

2009 September 15 4 comments

>Mike T brings my attention to the incompletely documented creatures called ropens. Several eye-witness accounts describe featherless flying creatures that perch upright on trees on the islands of Papua New Guinea.

Around Manus Island, the wingspan is three to four feet, according to Jim Blume, a missionary in Wau, on the mainland. Blume’s investigations indicate that wingspans may reach ten to fifteen feet in other areas. Whitcomb’s book mentions a few ropens that are even larger, including the ones seen by Hodgkinson and the Australian couple.

I am familiar with a variety of sightings of reptiles that are otherwise thought to be extinct, such as the bunjip. But I had not heard about ropens.

The description seems to be of a pterosaur. What I found particularly interesting about these sightings was the mention of lights on the animals.

Two natives described a ropen holding itself upright on a tree trunk (fruit bats hang upside down from branches), and his book also describes an apparently bioluminescent glow that may help the nocturnal creatures catch fish.

I am not aware that palaeontologists propose bioluminescence in pterosaurs. However previous eye-witnesses have suggested something similar. In his book After the Flood, Bill Cooper quotes Marie Trevelyan’s book Folk-Lore and Folk Stories of Wales, published in 1909.

The woods around Penllin Castle, Glamorgan, had the reputation of being frequented by winged serpents, and these were the terror of old and young alike. An aged inhabitant of Penllyne, who died a few years ago, said that in his boyhood the winged serpents were described as very beautiful. They were coiled when in repose, and “looked as if they were covered with jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow“. When disturbed they glided swiftly, “sparkling all over,” to their hiding places. When angry, they “flew over people’s heads, with outspread wings, bright, and sometimes with eyes too, like the feathers in a peacock’s tail”. He said it was “no old story invented to frighten children”, but a real fact. His father and uncle had killed some of them, for they were as bad as foxes for poultry. The old man attributed the extinction of the winged serpents to the fact that they were “terrors in the farmyards and coverts” (emphasis mine).

The Welsh description may be iridescence rather than luminescence, but I think the parallel striking. While I know too little about the Papua New Guinea story to vouch for its veracity, the lack of communication between Welsh and New Guinean witnesses concerning a pterosaur trait not otherwise recognised does give one pause.

Categories: animals, creationism, science

>Critique of my Young Earth Creationism post

2009 August 22 7 comments

> My post on young earth creationism raised several responses here and at Vox Popoli where it was originally posted. See also here and here. As well as a response on theologyonline.

These responses suggest some further aspects need to be discussed.

It is important for me to clarify what I was trying to do. I deliberately chose to give a scientific/ philosophical defence rather than a scriptural one. I thought it would interest a broader audience. And it is important to realise the issues in this debate are philosophical.

There were 2 main points I wanted to make.

  1. There is a fundamental difference between operational and historical science. Thus historical science can be challenged by types of knowledge (such as testimony and documentary knowledge) in a way that operational science cannot be challenged.
  2. Evidence against YEC that presupposes evolution is true is invalid. (In fact evidence against any theory presuming a priori that it is false is invalid).

So if people came away unconvinced yet more aware of their own preconceptions, and they could see that YEC is a valid philosophy that can be considered—and either accepted or rejected—then I am content with this.

The main complaints were the lack of positive evidence for YEC and the lack of exegetical support given for the YEC position.

Addressing the lack of positive evidence first. This complaint is reasonable, especially given my title. However the reasons given above are why I was cautious to discuss specific issues. Until these issues are dealt with, debates are frequently at cross purposes. YECists are forever pointing out the assumptions that non-YECists hold.

I had considered that too much discussion on the merits of, say, helium diffusion dating (and why evolutionists disagree with it) would miss the point that evolutionists are assuming ancient dates because they have a prior commitment to such, and thus they are judging other dating methods by their agreement, or not, to radiometric dating. Whereas my position is that the questioning of all dating methods is legitimate. As it was, the debates in the comments still frequently assumed the validity of old earth dogma.

Do YECists not also have a prior commitment to younger dates? Yes, they do. But they admit their commitment to a biblical timeframe. Evolutionists frequently deny their prior commitment and pretend they are somehow more objective, when in fact they are choosing the clocks that suit their purposes.

Nevertheless, the inclusion of more positive evidence of a young earth would have improved the post and it may be something I could address at a later stage.

My choice to avoid a scriptural defence on why the Bible demands YEC was deliberate, as mentioned. I laid out the basic beliefs for the benefit of those who did not know what they were; to clarify what YECists believe and also what they do not believe despite accusations to the contrary. However the responses and a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago has suggested that I should probably give the scriptural reasons for the YEC position at some stage.

>A defence of Young Earth Creationism

2009 August 14 33 comments

>Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is multifaceted. It is a metaphysical framework; a scripturally informed philosophy of nature which includes a scientific model that seeks to evaluate and explain the world. Thus it touches a variety of topics. There are limits in what can be accomplished with a short blog post, but I think that some clarity can be brought to the debate, specifically identifying the source of the conflict and the domain in which the debate needs to occur.

Antagonism to YEC is predominantly philosophical, rooted in naturalism. Opposition to the YEC position is frequently made using suppositions antagonistic to YEC; the proof of error is therefore in the axioms not the conclusions.

YEC has a long history. It has been the predominant position throughout most of the history of the West, until the introduction of uniformitarian interpretations in the 18th and 19th century by the non-catastrophic geologists. These geologists influenced Darwin and although Darwin didn’t publish his theory till the 19th century, evolutionary-like philosophies have a much older history, somewhat similar ideas proposed by some Greek philosophers. And YECists have good company with the likes of scientists such as Kepler, Newton, Pasteur, and Maxwell. But the issue is not a tradition game or a numbers game, it is: Does YEC accurately describe reality?

The underlying reasons for specific YECist concepts are: the rules of logic as applied to the Bible and science, and the grammatical historical hermeneutic applied to the Bible. YECists take most of Genesis to be historical narrative including the creation, fall, and flood. They think that most occurrences of the word “day” in Genesis 1 mean a usual day because of contextual considerations.

YEC touches several fields including theology: hermeneutics, theodicy; philosophy: philosophy of science, logic; science: biology, genetics, palaeontology, astronomy, geology, climate, thermodynamics; information theory; archaeology; history. (Hermeneutics and logic would be better classified as fields that form YEC belief rather than result from it, as mentioned above).

I wish to cover the following about YEC

  • What young earth creationists (YECists) do and do not believe;
  • The nature of evidence and science; and
  • A discussion focusing on a single aspect of YEC: the age of the earth.

What YEC is

YEC can be summarised as follows:

  • The universe is not eternal, it was created by God who is external to the world, self existent, and eternal
  • God created the world in 6 usual days
  • Nature was corrupted by the Fall of Man
  • The earth is about 6000 years old
  • The earth was deluged by a global flood about 4500 years ago
  • The Bible is inerrant and should be interpreted in a straightforward manner (according to genre)

There are several corollaries from this, though the specifics may vary. The creation model includes:

  • Most of the sedimentary layers of rock and enclosed fossils that occur worldwide were formed during the Noachic Flood.
  • The earth likely contained a single continent that broke up during or after the Flood
  • There was a single ice-age caused by the post-Flood climate
  • All land and air animals (of significant size) are descendants of the animals that were on the Ark
  • Man has coexisted with all animals that have ever existed
  • Natural selection (an analogue of artificial selection) occurs
  • Speciation is rapid. It occurs through allelic separation, genetically induced variation, or detrimental mutation (loss of genetic information).
  • There are genetic limits to the amount of speciation, diversification, adaption, or breeding that can occur
  • Information content of the biosphere cannot increase. Matter cannot create information.
  • Information is always the result of an intelligence
  • Loss of information can mean improved fitness within a specific environment, that is loss of function can result in improved likelihood of survival.
  • Lost information cannot be recovered without reintroduction of the same information (save trivial examples) by breeding or design
  • Archaeological artefacts post-date the Flood, which limits their age to a maximum of 4500 years

There are several accusations that are charged against YEC which proponents of YEC do not support or promote; such as

  • God (or Satan) created the fossils in situ as a test of our faith
  • God created things with false appearance of age (this needs qualification)
  • Animals were created how they look now and no new species of animals have developed
  • Entropy was a result of and did not exist before the Fall of Man
  • The earth is flat

On evidence and science

While much could be written in defence of the specific YEC beliefs, discussion can be difficult if foundational issues are not identified.

Modern science was originally a systematised process of categorising our observations to make further inferences and reduce our observations to consistent laws. While hypothesis testing is a usual method, data gathering to create a hypothesis was seen as legitimate. Thus, multiple measurements of the planets led to Kepler proposing elliptical orbits, which could then be further tested. Francis Bacon is frequently credited with formulating the scientific method. Written as:

observation → induction → hypothesis → test hypothesis by experiment → proof/disproof → knowledge

Popper’s falsifiability criterion has had a clarifying influence on the understanding of scientific theories. Therefore negative evidence was seen as disproving a theory whilst positive evidence is merely consistent with a theory, not proof of such.

Notice that Bacon’s definition is necessarily limited to observable phenomena. This is classic operational science (also called empirical science), which helps us infer laws about things that are demonstrable and repeatable. This is an enormously important distinction that frequently goes unrecognised. In contrast, inferences about previous events are not repeatable. This does not mean that the scientific method cannot be employed, rather that it is limited in what it can say.

Consider the science of identifying a criminal via a DNA sample. This science is not being done to discover how DNA binds to itself (i.e. hydrogen bonding), it is attempting to establish an event such as a murder.

So a fragment of the DNA is identified and then matched to a specific person. The samples can be run several times and in several different ways; both the forensic sample and the suspects’ samples. And we can establish that the forensic sample and a suspect sample match. This part of the process is operational science.

However establishing a particular suspect as the murderer is not observable. We cannot do an experiment several times to show that he did indeed murder the victim. Intrinsically it is impossible; the event happened in the past. And even if we establish he is capable of murder, it doesn’t prove he committed this particular murder. This kind of science is called historical science.

It has been claimed that scientists do not discriminate this way when practising science. This may be the case. When one does historical science there is usually an element of operational science as seen in this example (though the converse is not necessarily true). But whether actual scientists discriminate like this is irrelevant to the philosophy of science, what matters is whether this distinction exists. And it clearly exists because a methodology that relies on repeatability cannot be applied to singular past events.

The reason for this discussion is to show that historical science competes with other evidences in a way that operational science does not. If I claim my house is so high, I can invite you to m
easure it. Testimonial evidence doesn’t play a part. We don’t ask a range of people their opinion as to what they think my house height is. 3 measurements by several engineers using differing methods that all agree trump the opinion of a dozen opinions and guesses. This is not the case with historical science.

Returning to our murder investigation with DNA sampling, all we have established is that a suspect shares a DNA fingerprint with a crime scene sample. This may be because it is a limited test, say a portion of DNA with a limited number of polymorphisms. Even if we can be certain the DNA matches by performing adequate sequencing, there may be a identical twin brother we do not know about. Or the DNA may have come from the suspect, but at another time; a meeting earlier in the day. Now I am not trying to imply that DNA testing is inaccurate or inappropriate for criminal investigation, I am illustrating how its use in proving crime is intrinsically different from operational science.

Testimony of others meant little in the height of my house, but it means a great deal in identifying a murderer. Not because murder is more important that house height, but because it is not testable in the way that heights and widths of objects are. A claim that the suspect has a twin brother is a competing claim against the DNA test. A claim that the suspect was seen elsewhere at the time of the murder is a competing claim. A claim that the blood type does not match despite the DNA matching is a competing claim.

Note that competing claims against historical science can be both scientific and non-scientific (eg. testimonial).

Also note that scientific claims do not automatically trump non-scientific claims. The testimony of a thousand witnesses is not overturned by a DNA match just because the latter is scientific. We weigh several competing claims and people will be variously convinced depending on how reliable they regard each piece of evidence.

YEC is a competing claim about the history of the world. It is predominantly a competing claim to the historical sciences of biological macro-evolution, abiogenesis, stellar evolution, and uniformitarian geology.

Some of the YEC disagreement with evolutionary theory is due to consideration of non-scientific fields such as documentary evidence. However much of the disagreement is from a competing but different historical science. For example, consider the age of the earth.

How old is the earth?

YECists claim that the earth is about 6000 years old (though anything below 10000 years would fall into the same range). This is phenomenally different to the uniformitarian geological claim of 4.5 billion years. But note that any usual clock cannot calculate the time since the formation of the earth. We cannot go back, set our stop-watch, and mark off the aeons until now. We are considering a past event (or several past events). Compare this to measuring the time it takes a horse to run 1 km. We can do this measuring the starting and finishing time, and we can do this repeatedly, thus giving us the time (on average) the horse takes. For this we observe established clocks.

For past events we need to establish a historical clock, say radiometric-dating. Experiments can determine the amount of various isotopes of uranium and lead in a particular sample. One can do this part of the experiment over and over. We can satisfy ourselves to the limits of experimental accuracy that the sample contains a certain amount of uranium. This part of the investigation is operational science. All parties generally agree on the number of atoms identified in the sample and their ratio.

This ratio is then keyed into a formula based on a specific theory with a variety of assumptions to get a date for the formation of the mineral it was derived from. Now the theory is radioactive decay, which is reasonably well established, and an assumption is, say, no daughter isotope was present when the mineral formed.

The problem is that these calculations do not always give the answers that are thought to be correct (as established by other historical clocks or underlying evolutionary theory); so sub-theories are added, such as leaching of isotopes, addition of isotopes, incomplete melting at time of formation of mineral in rock. Creationists have also suggested a modification to the theory: the variation of decay half-life, though this modification is often disparaged.

Rather than discuss the merits of these sub-theories or, if you prefer, alteration of assumptions (all of which are reasonable); I would simply like to note that since radiometric dating is a historical science, there are competing claims.

There is the competing documentary claim, that the world was created 6000 years ago according to the Bible. This is a claim that YECists take seriously, much like the testimony of someone who witnessed an event. But documentary evidence is not restricted to the Bible. A variety of cultures have given an age of the earth much less than 4.5 billion years and more in keeping with the biblical figure, such as the Mayans and the Greeks. This particular competing claim is less convincing to agnostics and some theists, including some Christians. There are, however, other documentary claims and historical scientific claims that are worth mentioning.

Staying with radiometric dating, we have reliable documentary evidence for the age of some volcanic episodes. It so happens that rocks from lava flows within recent history that we know the real age of (via operational science) are consistently dated much older by radiometric dating, frequently hundreds of thousands of years or older. Explanations are offered up as to why this is the case, but the greater point is the model is reliably incorrect; it doesn’t matter how good this theory is or should be, the fact is the model doesn’t work.

If radiometric dating cannot get dates correct when we do know the true age, why should we trust it when we don’t know the true age?

We also have competing scientific claims. Radiometric dating is not the only historical clock. There are a large number of clocks. And even radiometric clocks vary depending on the isotope used.

Historical clocks often give maximum ages. This does not mean that the calculated age is the actual age, rather given the most favourable assumptions this is the longest a particular process has been going on. In constructing a clock based on sodium in the ocean, a maximum age would be established by assuming no sodium in the ocean when it formed, the lowest reasonable estimate for sodium influx, the highest reasonable estimate for sodium outflux, with the current concentration identified by measurements of salinity. The maximum age identified may not equal the true age, as the ocean may have started somewhat salty for example.

Within radiometric dating we have carbon dating competing with metal dating. Pretty much all carbon containing materials that have been tested contain carbon-14. This places an upper bound on their age. This includes diamonds embedded in rock supposedly millions of years old.

Other historical clocks include: diffusion rates of helium; decay of the magnetic field; decay of DNA and protein from dead organisms; elements in the ocean; recession of the moon, starlight travel from distant stars.

Objections can be raised against these other clocks (though the carbon-14 data is hard to surmount), but this is hardly the point. The point is that there are competing claims here. Radiometric dating of metals is favoured by the evolutionists because it gives a time frame needed for evolution. But it is one piece of historical scientific evidence. One person may find it convincing, but with so much riding against it, it is not unreasonable to weigh the other evidences heavier.

Summary

YEC is a worldview. It recognises a variety of evidences. It clearly understands the difference between operational and historical science
. YECists do not dispute any significant operational scientific finding. Investigating past events is philosophically distinct from investigating repeatable events and YEC views past events differently, and in a way that I think makes more sense of the data.

YEC theory on the age of the earth is more parsimonious. It is consistent with much of the documentary evidence. It is also consistent with many of the historical scientific clocks. Modifications to the starting conditions and rates give ages consistent with a young earth, including radio-carbon. Radio-dates of metals less so, but these are known to be inaccurate, and YEC proposals concerning rates of decay may resolve other well recognised difficulties of radiometric dating. Ancient earth theory is unable to easily reconcile non-radiometric clocks or even radio-carbon clocks.


Thanks to Paladin and AndyM for their suggestions.

>Dysteleology

2008 September 26 4 comments

>Evolutionists often argue against a designer by pointing to poor design in plants, animals, and humans. In his recent book By Design, Jonathan Sarfati makes the following points (my paraphrase):

  1. This is not a scientific argument, it is a theological one. It is not saying anything about design but about the designer.
  2. The examples offered are usually not bad design but a problem with our ignorance. We don’t understand the design. If we understood the full function of the organ then the good design would be obvious.
  3. Features need to be considered together and not in isolation. It is not one aspect that is being optimised but several.

These are profound points.

As an analogy consider a car, an object that is designed.

  1. Pointing out why you think a car functions suboptimally does not prove the car is not designed, it says that you think the designer did a poor job.
  2. Not understanding how spoilers work does not mean their presence is poor design, rather it reveals good design when you becomes aware of flow dynamics.
  3. Designing for speed and crash safety are competing themes. The fastest car may be unsafe in a crash. The strongest car may be slow. A car may be optimal for speed, safety, space, and fuel efficiency; though not maximised for any single one of these features.

>Did it rain before the flood?

2008 April 26 6 comments

>I don’t know that a definitive answer to this question is given in the Bible but it remains an interesting question.

Some have postulated men mocked Noah about a coming flood because they had never seen rain. Others have pointed to the rainbow covenant in Genesis 9 as a suggestion that rain was a new phenomenon, else rainbows would have been seen previously. The existence of rain suggests the existence of rainbows.

God spoke to the Flood survivors saying,

This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.

But the promise of the rainbow does not mean that rainbows had not been seen previously. The rainbow is the sign of the covenant. As other commentators have noted, bread represents Christ in the Eucharist, yet bread pre-dated this. Jesus gave new meaning to the bread in this context. It is possible that God gave meaning to the rainbow.

Nevertheless there is at least some suggestion that the rainbow was new.

In Genesis 2 it informs us that the ground was watered by a mist or spring.

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist [or spring] was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—

Prior to the Fall there was no rain, the hydrologic cycle was much gentler than the system we encounter today. The rain may have started after the creation of man, though I can think of no reason for this begin. A better case could be made for after the Fall given the cosmological consequences of Adam’s sin. Much changed at that time when we see the introduction of death into the world. Are there were mountains pre-Flood though likely of lesser size than the post-Flood ranges that we observe.

And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. (Gen 7)

If the highest mountains were covered by nearly 7 m of water they would not have been as high as they are now. There is plenty of water to cover a uniform earth to a significant depth, just not 8,000 m.

Mountains have an effect on the weather and their presence is one of the causes of rain.

If the world was essentially 1 continent before a peri-Flood break up then the movement of the ocean currents and the consequences of such would have been different in the antediluvian world.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1)

If the waters are predominantly in one place—the seas, then the land would likely be in one place. Of course some of the water was over the land in forms of streams, rivers, mists and springs.

There is also the suggestion that even seasons are a post flood phenomenon, they are first mentioned following the Flood. While creating God said,

Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth. (Gen 1)

While this is a reasonable translation and is one followed by most versions, the word translated season is mow`ed, and it could be argued that the translators are reading their post-Flood assumptions into the translation. Mow`ed occurs 223 times in the Bible and is seldom translated season: 13 times in the KJV, once in the NET. The meaning appears to be related to appointment, whether that be time or place. So in Genesis the sense would be appointed times; seasons if they existed, but possibly months or years, or the general sense of maintaining a calendar for whatever reason (eg. festivals). The word usually used for season is the word for time (`eth). That it is not used here suggests an emphasis on appointed times. It seems a reasonable translation is:

Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs for (appointed) times, and for days and for years,…

The first mention of seasons explicitly is immediately following the Flood. After Noah offers a sacrifice God says,

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. (Gen 8)

It is very possible that it rained before the Flood. That rain occurred at the time of the Flood and the mention of the rainbow as a sign certainly does not preclude it. However other passages suggest that the pre-Fall and very possibly the pre-Flood climate did not experience the current hydrologic cycle of rain (and snow). Pre-Flood we have:

  • Ground watered by mist or spring
  • A single continent of land
  • A landscape with hills or small mountains
  • No mention of specific seasons
Categories: creationism, deluge

>Bible glasses

2008 April 11 6 comments

>Young Earth Creationism claims that the world is about 6000 years old and God created it in 6 24-hour days. Geology is interpreted as being in a large part due to Noah’s flood. These views are held because it is claimed that the meaning of the Bible, especially Genesis, demands this chronological interpretation and that the Noachian deluge was global in its extent. There is good grammatical reason to assert this belief. And I see few difficulties with scientific data finding it more compatible with this belief than biological or stellar evolution.

While my initial creationist beliefs were strengthened thru scientific evidences, my conviction is probably stronger now because of biblical considerations. Not because the science is less convincing than the biblical evidence but because philosophically I think that truth is more firmly grounded in Scripture.

This change to a more biblical approach has been quite helpful. When I was younger I wondered how the Bible could be reconciled with secular evidences, especially archaeological “facts” that pre-date creation, ie. are “older” than 6000 years. This “problem” is actually more acute as these “facts” only need to pre-date the Flood to cause a dilemma given the Flood’s removal of antediluvian artefacts. This led to ideas like favouring the Septuagint chronology because it “gives more time.” My approach now is, “How can secular claims be reconciled with Scripture?” The Bible is assumed to be true and contrary claims are treated with scepticism.

This is actually quite reasonable. Why should every secular interpretation be held up as the standard that the Bible is judged by? Especially given that these interpretations change, are inconsistent with each other, and often derive from an anti-biblical bias. Further, the Bible has been vindicated multiple times, and its documentation of the failings of its heroes points even more so to its authenticity.

The Flood was approximately 4500 years ago. Any claim for artefacts that pre-date this I assume is incorrect. I assume some bias by the claimants, even if it is not revealed. And I think that the true solution will be compatible with the biblical record.

This is my default position. I think that God intended for Scripture to be a true description of reality: historical, moral and prophetic. It is not exhaustive for sure, but correct in what it does assert.

Is this a biased approach? Definitely. But all approaches are biased. Do I base my bias on the pride of men or on the revelation of the true God? The secular bias is very real. It assumes that its foundations are firm, that Middle East dating should be based a reconstructed Egyptian dating, that any ancient historical text should have precedence over the Bible. All of these assumptions are based in the ideas of men and there are even good non-biblical reasons to reject them.

It is astonishing how much of what we read and hear has this bias. Claims about history are especially affected by secular assumptions. These secular biases are frequently present in study Bibles which give a multitude of unlikely synchronisms, conservative reasoning based on underlying liberal theology, wrong assumptions about the the origins of monotheism. I think it is prudent to hold secular historical claims and several other factual claims very tentatively.

And there is a need for developing a completely biblically based history and chronology thru which all claims, historical, archaeological, and others, can be filtered.

>Biblical versus scientific creationism

2008 April 10 1 comment

>Henry Morris makes an interesting distinction between scientific creationism, biblical creationism, and scientific biblical creationism.

His definitions state that scientific creationism is based on scientific data within a broad creation claim, biblical creationism defends a creation based solely on Scripture, and scientific biblical creationism is the development of the creation model based on Scripture and science.

I was a little suspicious of this when I started the article but on completion I think there may be some merit to this way of thinking. The systems are not contradictory but rather complementary as can be seen by the amalgamation of the first 2 systems in the 3rd.

Here is a summary of Morris’ principles of the systems.

Scientific Creationism

What can be known about the universe thru scientific endeavour—general revelation.

  1. The physical universe was created.
  2. The biological universal was created.
  3. The biosphere was created in bounded kinds and adaptions are neutral or information losing.
  4. Humans were created and have an added spiritual component.
  5. Catastrophism rather than uniformitarianism explains geology.
  6. Natural laws dictate the scientific method.
  7. Physical and biological structures are deteriorating.
  8. An originally perfect and now deteriorating universe implies divine purpose.
  9. Humans can investigate manifestations of the divine in the material world.

Biblical Creationism

What can be known about the universe thru biblical study—special revelation.

  1. The creator of the universe is the triune God.
  2. The Bible is divinely inspired and true in all domains it touches on.
  3. The world was created in 6 days.
  4. Adam had dominion over the earth; the Fall cursed that dominion.
  5. The Flood and confusion of languages are historical.
  6. Alienation of man from God can only be rectified by God, and that in Christ.
  7. God will restore creation in the future and give life to those who accept him and death to those who reject him.
  8. Jesus will return and remove the Curse.
  9. Men should subdue the earth and proclaim Christ.

I am not certain I would choose these specific items or group them this way, but it shows some of what can be known by general revelation and what is added with special revelation. Further, additional ground can be made by marrying the specific to the general: we have much greater insight when it is clear that not only is geology catastrophic (general revelation), most of it was due to a single event over about 1 year (special revelation).

It is also apparent that general revelation is subservient to special revelation. For example if the world was made in 6 days this is not obtainable from scientific endeavour. Even if science can teach us much, such as fixity of kinds and that creation must have been over a short period (symbiosis and ecology), it cannot teach us a 6 day creation. But this information is obtainable thru revelation from the creator who made the world.

Biblical priority is real. Believing this can alter our perspective, which it the topic of my next post.

>Has the year always been the same duration?

2007 November 14 4 comments

>There are some writings that claim that the year was previously shorter than it is now. Some people have suggested the year has been 360 days long in the past. Velikovsky mentions a myth that says 5 days were taken from the moon and given to the sun. That is the previous lunar year was 12 × 30 (= 360) days and the old solar year was 360 days. The current lunar year is now 354 and a bit days, solar year 365 and a bit.

Some suggest that the year may have been even shorter prior to this.

If the year has been of different duration (measured in days) there are 2 options:
Scenario 1. The earth’s spin was previously slower and has since speed up. Scenario 2. The earth’s orbit was previously closer to the sun.

Of course it could be a combination of the 2.

Scenario 1
If the earth’s spin was slightly slower and has speed up (presumably by a factor of ~365/360) then the absolute duration of the year is unchanged but more days pass in a year because the days are now shorter.

Scenario 2
If the day length is unchanged then a shorter year would be absolutely shorter, the duration of the year is related to the distance from the earth to the sun (and eccentricity of the orbit, though the earth’s orbit is close to circular)

The month is currently 29.5 days long. Scenario 2 with an altered earth orbit would have a shorter year but the same duration of the month. Scenario 1 would have a longer old day of 24.35 hours (360/365.25×24) which would make the previous month seem shorter at 29 old days rather than the 29.5 days it currently is. Of course the orbit of the moon could have changed at the same time (or at another time). The asymmetrical cratering of the moon suggests catastrophe in the heavens.

An idea that came to me reading a footnote in the book In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown. I have not actually read the book so this may have been in the book, nevertheless I have not seen it previously: If the atmosphere pre-flood had a lot of water in it to precipitate (eg. vapour canopy theory), it would have some mass. After the flood the mass would now be at sea level, and by conservation of angular momentum, the earth would speed up, the amount depending on the height from which it precipitated. Consequently shortening the day and “lengthening” the year (in number of days).

It would be interesting to look into this in terms of the amount of water and the original height of the water. The mass may be completely insignificant and the change in spin speed inconsequential, but I haven’t seen figures.

Of course any change in the earth’s year may be unrelated to this and be all to do with the earth’s interaction with the moon and other celestial phenomenon. Or the change in year length may have been at a different time than the flood: note Joshua’s long day and Hezekiah’s sundial. Or perhaps there was more than one episode.

Or course the duration of the day and the month may have been the same as the current figures since creation. It does make one wonder why the ancients had stories to the contrary though.

Categories: calendar, creationism, physics

>Reasons that Genesis 1 means a literal 6 days

2007 September 16 8 comments

>Firstly I have a question for those who deny the days are literal: “If God decided to make the world in 6 days, how would he convey this so we would not misunderstand him?” I mean, if God did take 6 days, there is nothing he could say more than what already is in Genesis 1 to convince us. Whatever further details that could be written would be explained away by those who disagree just like they do now. If the days were not intended to be read as literal the wording used in Genesis seems an unusual choice, and there are plenty of ways in Hebrew to say otherwise.

Several reasons why I think the days in Genesis 1 are of 24 hour duration:

  1. Style is narrative. This is clear from just reading it, but technical analysis concurs.
  2. The word “day” is prefixed by a number. This always means a literal day elsewhere in Scripture. Some questions of interpretation of day with a number is raised when the passage is prophetic.
  3. The word “day” is prefixed by the phrase “there was evening and there was morning,” a phrase that is also used for a literal day. Again, some dispute around prophetic usage.
  4. The first day also mentions the day was divided into daytime and nighttime according to whether it was light or dark.

    And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day(time),” and the darkness he called “night(time).” And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5)

  5. Comparison is made to creation when God commanded the Israelites to rest on the Sabbath. God said,

    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 6 days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the 7th day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in 6 days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the 7th day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20)

    The reason this parallel is exact is because the word day is used. One can have a Sabbath of other time periods, usually years (Exodus 23, 2 Chronicles 36), but no comment is made about those periods being the same as the creation periods, ie. days.

    In fact the existence of the week is a strong pointer to the literalism of Genesis 1. Day, month and year all have astronomical events that define them. Other time divisions are clearly a division or multiplication of these 3 fundamental periods. Decade and century from the decimal numerical scheme; seconds, minutes and hours from the sexagesimal scheme. The week is clearly a period based on days that has no logical explanation other than divine decree.

The first day is particularly instructive because, in a way, it is acting as a definition. Not only is it literal because of the mention of a number and evening and morning, the day is defined based on a period of daylight followed by darkness.

For those who deny the days are 24 hours this needs explaining. And it is likely the proposed hermeneutic will be invoked because of a prior, extra-biblical commitment to an ancient earth.

>Who and why not how and when. Really?

2007 September 7 5 comments

>A comment so frequent it would be difficult to attribute a source is:

Genesis 1 tells the creation story in terms of who and why not how and when.

Like many cliches it sounds pithy but on closer inspection lacks substance. The statement is analysing the first chapter of the Bible from the viewpoint of who, why, how and when. It is useful to read the chapter with these questions in mind.

The repeated use of the word God thru out the chapter certainly supports the observation that Genesis 1 tells us who created.

What about the “why”? I can see very little in the first chapter that tells us why God created the universe. That he did, yes; but his motivation for doing so, no. We are informed that the stellar objects are for light and time keeping and the vegetation is for food; so there is a “why” for creation in terms of man’s relationship with them, but the reason for making man? In fact it is difficult to find much in the Bible that tells us why God created us. A explanation would be that he is love and created creatures, including man, to offer love as a gift. While that is likely true, it is an indirect teaching of Scripture and is not obvious in Genesis 1.

Does Genesis 1 tell us how God created? Only in a limited form. That all started from the deep (water) and hence possibly some creations were made from water; that space was created by separating the waters; in terms of land and seas being gathered together which may have some implications for geology. Genesis 2 gives information on the “how” of man. Male was made from dust and God’s breath, which may have some theological implications but less certain scientific ones; and female from male, again for theological reasons: in order to teach us about marriage. While some “how” information may be garnered from the chapter, it is not a primary teaching.

Which leaves the “when”. The term “when” in the phrase above is used to mean that Genesis 1 does not give us chronological information. So strictly the “when” is not given in the first chapter, it is from later chapters in Genesis and elsewhere in Scripture. But that Genesis 1 gives chronological information is certain. The chapter repeatedly uses statements that give a chronological flow.

Therefore if someone subscribes to a hermeneutic that doesn’t agree with Genesis 1 describing 6 literal days, it is unreasonable to disparage those who think it does.

So the quote may be better rephrased:

Genesis 1 tells the creation story in terms of who and when but gives little information on how and why.

>Comparing the days of creation

2007 August 29 7 comments

>The framework hypothesis claims Genesis 1 is a literary device not intended to teach chronology. It claims this is seen in the symmetry between the first 3 days and the second 3 days. Such symmetry would not deny a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. There are other examples of literal events that have symmetry (Numbers 7). There are also other arguments for a literal interpretation which I am not going to touch on here.

The argument is God created the environments on days 1 to 3, a different environment each day, and filled those environments on the next 3 days; day 4 corresponding to day 1, 5 to 2 and 6 to 3. So how symmetrical is Genesis 1?

Going thru Genesis 1 what is created when?

  • Day 1: Light, day(time), nighttime
  • Day 2: Expanse (sky, space, heavens)
  • Day 3: Land, seas, plants
  • Day 4: Sun, moon, stars
  • Day 5: Water animals, air animals
  • Day 6: Land animals, man

So we have day 4 creations residing in the expanse of day 2 while bearing the light that was created on day 1.

We have day 5 creatures filling the sea of day 3 and flying on the face of the expanse of day 2

And day 6 creatures live on the land of day 3.

While there is some correspondence between 1 and 4, 2 and 5, 3 and 6, it is neither exact nor compelling, and inadequate to override the several other evidences that Genesis 1 is literal narrative history.

>The Council of Europe finds creationism dangerous

2007 July 28 4 comments

>

The Council of Europe has its eyes on creationism. They propose a 19 point resolution with an associated 105 point explanation. The summary states,

The theory of evolution is being attacked by religious fundamentalists who call for creationist theories to be taught in European schools alongside or even in place of it. From a scientific view point there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of the Universe and of life on Earth.

Creationism in any of its forms, such as “intelligent design”, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes.

The Assembly calls on education authorities in member States to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline.

Aside from being completely wrong about creationism, the document is filled with inaccurate comments and their proposals are fearsome.

Rebuting the proposal would take a bog post or several per point so I will pick out a few.

3. The prime target of present-day creationists, most of whom are Christian or Muslim, is education. Creationists are bent on ensuring that their theories are included in the school science syllabus. Creationism cannot, however, lay claim to being a scientific discipline.

Not all creationists seek to mandate teaching of creationism in schools. 2 leading creationist organisations (Creation Ministries International and Answers in Genesis) in the English speaking world and the Discovery Institute specifically have stated they do not want laws forcing their views taught. The creationist organisations’ primary target is Christians within the church. And while they are happy if individual schools wish to include creationism within their curriculum, the idea of making it mandatory and therefore having opponents teach it and likely distort it is not appealing.

11. Our modern world is based on a long history, of which the development of science and technology forms an important part. However, the scientific approach is still not well understood and this is liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism, synonymous with attacks of utmost virulence on human rights. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.

So how exactly is a rejection of science a serious threat to human rights? I don’t advocate rejecting science but this comment is patently false. Many men have accepted science and used inventions available through scientific development to serious impinge on human rights. I don’t blame science for that, but if you are wont to connect acceptance of science to human rights I think you will have stronger case for an inverse relationship that a direct one.

But the frightening comments are such as these,

17. Investigation of the creationists’ growing influence shows that the arguments between creationism and evolution go well beyond intellectual debate. If we are not careful, the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists. It is part of the role of the Council’s parliamentarians to react before it is too late.

The idea that the council is benevolent and knows what the society needs. They have judged creationism and found it wanting and therefore must protect the vulnerable public. They cannot be exposed to “dangerous” ideas for that will damage society. Your thoughts must be controlled and you are limited in what we will let you think about, but it is all for your own good. Trust us as we want the best for you.

All while approving of abortion and euthanasia, overriding the rights of parents (education in Germany, corporal punishment in Sweden), and witnessing a rise in slavery coincidental with the demise of Christianity.

You can worship God, but only if your religion is approved by the benevolent powers:

13. All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a much more moderate attitude. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, as his predecessor Pope John-Paul II, today praises the role of the sciences in the evolution of humanity and recognises that the theory of evolution is “more than a hypothesis”.

Their proposal, in 5 parts, would find agreement by creationists for the first 3:

18.1. defend and promote scientific knowledge;

18.2. strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;

18.3. make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;

18.4. firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection and in general resist presentation of creationist theories in any discipline other than religion;

18.5. promote the teaching
of evolution by natural selection as a fundamental scientific theory in the
school curriculum.

And the creationists would add that if 18.5 is enacted then they should do this fully, teaching evolution, warts and all—for there are many difficulties that could be raised. And if you don’t want exposure to the problems but just school child acceptance of the shaky theory, then it is propaganda and not science you are proposing.

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Categories: creationism, politics, science

>Crocodile or hadrosaur?

2007 July 23 1 comment

>The bunyip displayed in my recent post has some similarities to a crocodile, notably the tail. I am uncertain what the aboriginal word for crocodile is. But there are several distinct features in the picture that are not seen in crocodiles and alligators (these are the same essential kind of animal created by God).

The legs on the drawing come from below the animal, not from the side. The animal is walking on its back feet, not all fours. And the animal’s face is more representative of a duck bill than the snout of a crocodile. The picture is probably more representative of what we think a hadrosaur (a duck billed dinosaur) looked like. The interesting thing is the drawing of the bunyip predates the discovery of a fossilised duckbilled dinosaur by 13 years.

Categories: creationism, science

>What animal is this?

2007 July 20 3 comments

>
Australian Aboriginals claim knowledge of an animal they call a bunyip. Many have suggested that this is mythical but when bones were shown to an Aboriginal he claimed they were from a bunyip. He gave a description of a it and drew a picture of it. When the picture was shown to other people, who do not necessarily have contact with each other, they confirmed it was a bunyip. This occurred in 1845.

I am not certain if this the the original picture or a rendition is based on the description. Does it resemble any creature extant or extinct?

Categories: creationism, science

>Making energy work

2007 July 7 1 comment

>Talk origins has a segment where they refute particular creationist claims. I was directed to this claim about energy transfer

Claim CF001.5:

Energy inflow into a system is not enough to make that energy useful. There must also be an energy conversion mechanism. Without that system, evolution cannot work.

Sourced from: Yahya, Harun, 2003. Darwinism Refuted, Evolution and thermodynamics.

Their response was two-fold. Dealing with them in order

Any atom can be an energy conversion mechanism. Atoms routinely convert between light energy, thermal energy, and chemical potential energy. The energy conversion mechanism is ubiquitous.

They seemed to have missed the word “useful” in the original quote. Drop water over a fall and the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, heat and sound at ground level. How is that useful? How is that work? But place a water wheel in it’s path: an “energy conversion mechanism” and one gets useful work. The “conversion mechanism” is not referring to the change in energy type, it is referring to the ability to extract work.

Moving on

A lack of an energy conversion system would not only invalidate evolution; it would invalidate life itself. Evolution requires only reproduction, natural selection, and heritable variation, all of which are observed in life. The conversion of energy is a quality of life, so the conversion system exists for evolution to work with.

Equivocation. Natural selection requires reproduction, and heritable variation (no dispute). Macroevolution requires an expanded genome: new genes, promoters, proteins, control sequences, etc. For this one needs a source, mutation being the favoured source among evolutionists. I claim no there is no known mutation that increases information. Beneficial mutations are not necessarily information gaining.

I fail to see how life invalidates the claim. Living things are energy conversion systems.

The nature of information needs expanding; but for another time.

>Evening and morning

2007 April 2 Leave a comment

>Genesis 1 has the refrain: And there was evening and there was morning, the nth day.

Much has been written about the meaning of the word day (Hebrew yom). Clearly in Genesis 1:5 it means daylight.

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. (ESV)

In Genesis 2:3 to it refers to period of time

…in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. (ESV)

leading to translations like “when”

When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens (NIV)

The word “day” joined to a number implies the sense of a 24-hour day.

And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. (Gen 1:13 ESV)

Young earth creationists often use the qualifier “24-hour” so that their meaning is clear: “The world was made in 6 24-hour days.” It is hard to misunderstand that. So me may complain that Genesis should be that clear if it intends to say this. I think it is and that it is extra-biblical ideas that challenge the straightforward interpretation. My question back is: “If God did indeed create in 6 days, how else could he have written Genesis 1?” Whereas if it really was over long periods of time there are plenty of other ways to show this.

But I think Genesis does say something along the lines of what young earth creationists say: that the world was made in 6 24-hour days; just it is written in a different way than we expect. The issue is that hours are a human construct. A reasonable one but there is no phenomenon that suggests the rotation of the earth should be divided into 24 periods. So the creation record we have in Genesis could not have been written “24-hour day.” because the concept of hours was not yet in existence (the word “hour” appears twice in the Old Testament). So if God was to say the equivalent of “24-hour” to modify day he could use a division of the day to say this. At the creation there is a natural division: daytime and night-time. So the equivalent to “24-hour day” at the time of creation is a “2-time-period day,” which is what we read:

And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Gen 1:5)

And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. (Gen 1:8)

And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. (Gen 1:13)

And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. (Gen 1:19)

And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. (Gen 1:23)

And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Gen 1:31)