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>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.

>Flat earth cosmology and other assumptions

2009 January 29 9 comments

> Michael Patton posted recently that he thinks that people lose faith because of lack of discipleship and he mentioned in passing that Christians used to believe the world was flat. That Christianity didn’t teach a flat earth doesn’t change the thrust of his argument. Nevertheless, I offered my thoughts as this lie needs to die.

In response to this others claimed that the Bible teaches a flat earth.

Greg made this comment,

…the idea of a “flat” earth is presented in the Bible, simply because that’s how the people envisioned it back then. They’d go up onto a mountain top, look around, and see a round, disk-shaped earth. That’s all they knew, and God no where in His Word sought to obviously correct that understanding. I think any “scientific” statement in the Bible is best understood by the science of their day, not ours.

The cosmology presented in Genesis is incredibly similar to Egyptian and Babylonian cosmology. Not in its theology, just in its structure. Sometimes we like to think that the Israelites developed their culture and wrote the Bible in a vacuum, that there was no influence or sharing of ideas between others in that same era and geographical location.

I’ve noticed that Christians tend to try and explain this kind of stuff away so we can make the Bible conform to our modern understanding of science. We have this misplaced idea that to be reliable, the Bible needs to match our understanding of everything, or that if there’s some borrowed stuff from Babylon or Egypt that its any less inspired. We sometimes forget that the Bible was written for us, but not to us. God inspired in a manner that would be meaningful to ancient Israelites. He accommodated Himself to them by taking their cosmology and reinterpreting it in light of Himself.

Its really quite fascinating when you read Genesis with this in mind. You come across a whole mass of information and meaning that we moderns tend to overlook because we just don’t think that way anymore.

And he recommended the article A Common Cosmology of the Ancient World. I have only read some of this and would like to respond to it in more depth at a later stage. For now I wish to make a few comments about assumptions in Greg’s quote and then a few thoughts on the flat earth question.

The phrase

any “scientific” statement in the Bible is best understood by the science of their day

poses problems. Firstly science in the modern sense dates back a few hundred years. Rather statements of this type in the Bible are factual claims. Granted they may come from inference rather than direct observation but they are not scientific in the way we understand the term. Further many modern “scientific” claims are claims of history not operational science. There is much truth in understanding the Bible on its own terms not ours, but “own terms” is about how the Bible uses language, not its objective claims. The ancient Israelite concept of what constitutes “life” may not fully correspond to ours, but Jesus either rose from the dead or he did not.

The related comment

He accommodated Himself to them by taking their cosmology and reinterpreting it in light of Himself.

is a significant claim. Agreed, God does not have to correct our misconceptions. And not doing so does not give tacit approval. But statement says that God tells us our misconceptions are correct when they are not. I disagree.

What about cultural influences?

Sometimes we like to think that the Israelites developed their culture and wrote the Bible in a vacuum, that there was no influence or sharing of ideas between others in that same era and geographical location.

I am not certain who holds to the Bible being written in a vacuum. Israel clearly interacts with the nations thru-out both Testaments. They constantly shared ideas with their neighbours, much to God’s displeasure. The proposal that God hated the behaviour of the pagan nations and constantly told Israel not to emulate them and repeated told them not to worship foreign gods or adopt their practices, yet borrowed their incorrect structural cosmogony seems unlikely.

To flat-earthism. I note that the objection is a slightly different point to the one I made. I have previously posted that the sphericity of the earth was documented as least as early as 500 BC. Patton’s comment was about Christianity teaching a flat earth. The history is that Christianity has, by and large, taught a spherical earth when addressing the topic. The most that can be said is that some argued against antipodean lands and/ or inhabitants for reasons unrelated to the earth’s shape.

As mentioned, I hope to post later about the claim about the Bible teaching a flat earth. For now I have several general comments.

  1. Because the flat-earth myth was invented by infidels in an attempt to discredit Christianity, in any discussion about earth topology Christianity should be given the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Geocentricism is not the same as flat-earthism.
  3. “Evolutionary thinking” is much more pervasive than we realise. For example the idea that polytheism developed into monotheism is an social evolutionary idea not a biblical one. The Bible suggests the reverse.
  4. Why should every other text (and theory) be the standard to which the Bible is compared? If the Bible and any particular text disagree why is it assumed the Bible is in error?
  5. Accounts recorded by Scripture and other cultures could be due to common memory. If there is borrowing going on it may be from the Bible (or possibly source texts in the case of Genesis) to other nations than vice versa. A comparison of texts is helpful.
  6. We must be careful about forcing poetry. As I previously wrote:

    Poetry frequently talks about real events and uses literal wording at times. However features of poetry include the frequent use of symbolism and metaphor. When reading poetry it is important to understand the point being illustrated, not insist on the literal meaning of the underlying wording. If a poem uses a phrase that is intended to be literal or does indeed coincide with reality then it is not unreasonable to use the passage as support that the author understood this particular concept. It is not valid, however, to force literalism on a poetical passage.

>Questionable behaviour by the global warming alarmists

2008 September 17 4 comments

>I have been meaning to post on a paper by Christopher Monckton which discusses climate sensitivity. The article was interesting for several reasons. It was attempting to show that the climate models overestimate forcing by neglecting more significant attenuating factors. It was also interesting in that a disclaimer preceded the article which apparently was unprecedented and possibly incorrect.

The paper is slightly difficult to read, I struggled with aspects and I am trained in physics. There are some interesting comments in between the mathematics.

Some 20 temperature feedbacks have been described, though none can be directly measured. Most have little impact on temperature. The value of each feedback, the interactions between feedbacks and forcings, and the interactions between feedbacks and other feedbacks, are subject to very large uncertainties….

This does not necessarily mean the uncertainty of climate is high, it depends on how much influence these feedbacks have in the models. They may have negligible effects in predominantly solar models but are the major contributor to CO2 models. Which means the uncertainty of anthropomorphic climate models is high.

Even satellite-based efforts at assessing total energy-flux imbalance for the whole Earth-troposphere system are uncertain. Worse, not one of the individual forcings or feedbacks whose magnitude is essential to an accurate evaluation of climate sensitivity is mensurable directly, because we cannot distinguish individual forcings or feedbacks one from another in the real atmosphere, we can only guess at the interactions between them, and we cannot even measure the relative contributions of all forcings and of all feedbacks to total radiative forcing.

20 different feedbacks and they cannot be empirically distinguished. How can the modellers even know whether these things exist?

The discussion makes some interesting comments,

The IPCC’s methodology relies unduly – indeed, almost exclusively – upon numerical analysis, even where the outputs of the models upon which it so heavily relies are manifestly and significantly at variance with theory or observation or both. Modeled projections such as those upon which the IPCC’s entire case rests have long been proven impossible when applied to mathematically-chaotic objects, such as the climate, whose initial state can never be determined to a sufficient precision. For a similar reason, those of the IPCC’s conclusions that are founded on probability distributions in the chaotic climate object are unsafe.

With the subsequent conclusion noting 9 serial contingencies; 9 nested if/ then statements!

What motivated me to get around to this post is Monckton’s publication this month (pdf), Hockey Stick? What Hockey Stick? How alarmist “scientists” falsely abolished the Mediaeval Warm Period.


This paper analyses the events surrounding the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, focusing on the infamous hockey stick graph. It reports a

swamp of misrepresentation, deceit, concealment and malfeasance

to such a degree that even if anthropomorphic global warming were a true phenomenon, the IPCC would be unable to discover it.

I will add that I do not find the evidence for a medieval warm period given in the later half of the paper particularly convincing. I think there was a medieval warm period, but I am not convinced by the examples and methods he reproduces.

Monckton’s conclusion is worth quoting at some length

The continuing affair of the “hockey-stick” graph is a microcosm of the profound collapse of the rigor, objectivity, and honesty that were once hallmarks of the scientific community. The need to look to the State for very nearly all science funding has inflicted upon the scientific community a dull, dishonest uniformity, so that the deliberate falsification of results to support the current official orthodoxy has become commonplace, particularly where the climate question is concerned.

It was bad enough that one of those behind the “hockey stick” affair should have told a fellow researcher, “We need to get rid of the medieval warm period.” It was worse that the authors of the bogus graph attempted to do just that, by ignoring, undervaluing or even suppressing proxies for northern-hemisphere temperature that did not suit the result they wanted; by falsely stating that they had used data they had in fact replaced with “estimates” of their own that gave them a less inconvenient answer; by overvaluing by many orders of magnitude the contribution of datasets that suited the result they wanted.

It was worse still that the IPCC, several leading journals and numerous former co-authors of the three fabricators of the hockey stick should have continued to cling to it as though it were Gospel even though it has been justifiably and utterly discredited in the scientific literature, and should have gone through an elaborate pantomime of rewriting and publishing previously-rejected papers with the connivance of a dishonest journal editor, so that an entirely fictitious scientific support for the false graph could be falsely claimed by the IPCC in its current Fourth Assessment Report.

The IPCC might have regained some of the scientific credibility that it lost by its publication of the 2001 graph if, in its 2007 assessment report, it had had the integrity, honesty, and common sense to apologise for the failure of its soi-disant “peer-review” process to identify the multiple and serious scientific errors that led to the publication of the graph.

As it is, the IPCC, rather than apologizing, has chosen to participate in the falsification of subsequent results purporting to uphold the original graph,… No serious scientist, therefore, can any longer take any of the IPCC’s conclusions seriously for a single moment longer. As Lord Lawson of Blaby has long argued, the IPCC should now be abolished. It cannot serve any useful purpose in future, because it has dishonestly lent its support not merely to the falsification of scientific results but to the persistent maintenance of that falsification. The IPCC is finished….

Is there, therefore, the slightest reason for the childish panic that the environmental extremist movement and its servant the IPCC have attempted to whip up? No. Should any government devote a single further penny to the climate scare? No. Even if humankind is contributing significantly to warmer weather (which is highly unlikely), adaptation to warmer weather as and if necessary would be orders of magnitude cheaper than the measures to reduce carbon emissions that the world’s extremist politicians are now so eagerly but purposelessly advocating.

The real cost of the flagrant abuses of the scientific method surrounding the question of climate that are so well illustrated by the affair of the “hockey stick” is a terrible, unseen cost in human lives. The biofuel scam that arose directly out of the climate scare has taken one-third of US agricultural land out of food production in just two years. Similar
economic disasters have occurred worldwide, not because of “global warming” but because of the catastrophically bad policy-making that the “global warming” scare has engendered among politicians too ignorant of science and too lazy to do other than swim with the rising tide of pseudo-scientific nonsense.

The environmental extremists, who have already killed 50 million children through malaria by their now-canceled ban on the use of DDT, the only effective agent against the anopheles mosquito that spreads the infective parasite, are already eagerly killing millions more through their latest scientifically-baseless scare – the “global warming” panic pandemic. Food riots are occurring throughout the world among the poorest of the poor in many countries: but the desperation, starvation, disease, and death that accompany the sudden famines that the biofuel-driven doubling of world food prices has engendered are scarcely reported by our news media. In Haiti, they are eating mud pies made of earth, water, a tiny knob of butter, and a pinch of salt; or they sell the mud pies to less fortunate neighbours at 3 US cents each. Has any Western news medium reported this, or the hundreds of other agonizing stories of famine and starvation all round the world? No. Instead, every icicle that falls in Greenland is paraded as an omen of imminent doom: and, as for the crooked pseudo-scientists who invented the hockey stick, supported it, and continue to parade it in the mendacious documents of the IPCC, no journalist would dare to ask any of them the questions that would expose their self-seeking corruption for what it is. These evil pseudo-scientists, through the falsity of their statistical manipulations, have already killed far more people through starvation than “global warming” will ever kill. They should now be indicted and should stand trial alongside Radovan Karadzic for nothing less than high crimes against humanity: for, in their callous disregard for the fatal consequences of their corrupt falsification of science, they are no less guilty of genocide than he.

If the alarmists are right, then it is important to bring attention to these “omens.” The issue may need to be addressed. But ideas have consequences. If they are wrong it is possible they have blood on their hands.

Categories: bias, climate change, physics

>Did Jesus believe in a flat earth?

2008 May 11 1 comment

>When responding to Tilling earlier, I indicated that as well as discussing the characterisation of knowledge I wanted to correct other false statements in his post. The 2 errors were the flat earth claim and the idea that metaphors would puzzle Jesus. Here I address the flat earth.

The flat earth claim probably is unfounded. That Christianity promoted a flat earth was in large a lie propagated by the likes of Andrew Dickson White in his anti-Christian polemics. Jeffery Burton Russell has discussed this in detail (summary here) and even an atheist site has acknowledged the false claims against the church. The latter’s view of Christianity remains somewhat hostile.

The knowledge of the sphericity of the earth can be currently dated at least as early as ~500–600 BC in Greece. Pythagoras (~500 BC) and Aristotle (~350 BC) believed the earth was a sphere; though spherical claims may have easily predated this, especially in other regions. I am not aware of extant documents that inform us what other empires before Greece which include Persia, Babylon, and Egypt, thought of the earth’s shape. I do dispute the claim that much of Hebrew theology and cosmology derives from Babylon; these ideas are partially based on (what I would consider) false synchronisms. Reviewing knowledge earlier than Egypt, we have Josephus claiming that Abraham introduced astronomy to the Egyptians. I doubt we have enough information to adequately judge Josephus’ claim but the assumption of ignorance of the ancients is tired and likely reflects modernist arrogance. Even the events at Babel suggests that astronomy was a significant feature there.

Given that the Greeks knew the earth was a ball centuries before the Roman empire existed it is highly likely that the Roman world at the time of Christ believed in a spherical earth. The occasional theologian in the centuries after Jesus suggested a flat earth but this was the exception. Perhaps more commonly, opposition arose at times against the idea of the antipodes. One must be careful not to view this as evidence that the person was arguing for a flat earth. There were (false) reasons for arguing against men living on the other side of the earth unrelated to the shape of the earth. Men could hold to a spherical earth and disbelieve in either antipodean lands and/ or inhabitants.

The Bible makes very little comment of the shape and structure of the earth. Most of the passages referenced are poetical. Poetry frequently talks about real events and uses literal wording at times. However features of poetry include the frequent use of symbolism and metaphor. When reading poetry it is important to understand the point being illustrated, not insist on the literal meaning of the underlying wording. If a poem uses a phrase that is intended to be literal or does indeed coincide with reality then it is not unreasonable to use the passage as support that the author understood this particular concept. It is not valid, however, to force literalism on a poetical passage. This is also true with the use of metaphor in prose, though this is generally more obvious.

In summary we have documentary evidence for the knowledge of a spherical earth for more the last 2500 years and it was common knowledge at the time of Christ. The idea of a flat earth has never been seriously held by the majority of people since before the time of Christ and the medieval flat earth myth was invented by infidels in their attempt to discredit the church.

>Time and eternity

2007 November 21 Leave a comment

>While I have thought that eternity is outside time for sometime now, recently I was pondering the thought that time itself may be a subset of eternity. In fact it seems to me that this must be the case.

God always has been. There are several scriptures that mention this. And he always will be.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: (Isaiah 57)

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting! (Psalm 41)

Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting. (Psalm 93)

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. (Genesis 21)

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33)

For to us a child is born,to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9)

The sun shall be no more your light by day,nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light,and your God will be your glory. (Isaiah 60)

But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. (Jeremiah 10)

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. (2 Peter 3)

The Bible uses words that have a temporal component, this is reasonable given that we dwell in time and conceiving anything outside time may well be impossible. Nonetheless, this does not necessarily imply just that time is and God has been forever. The first words of the Bible are:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This presupposes there was a beginning. A time when time itself was created. Yet God was already there.

We can call this eternity. Not just forever past to forever future but beyond time.

Whether eternity is a time dimension is unknown, but whatever qualities it has (if it is any more that just the existence of God) time is surely a subset of it. In the same way that past present and future are all subsets of all time, time itself must be a subset of eternity, as eternity does not cease when time was created and therefore time exists in it.

An analogy to space can help. 1 dimension is a subset of 2 dimensions. 2 dimensions has a infinite number of single dimensions, but no 1 dimension is a preferential reference frame. Now one can define (read create) a primary reference frame for a line but the 2 dimensions do not cease to exist. Time as it now exists may have meant little or nothing in eternity until it was defined/ created.

I am not suggesting that eternity is 2 (or 3) dimensions of time. I am not suggesting that cause and effect are not real. Rather just the idea that while eternity is different to time, it may be different in that it is more than time, that it contains it.

Categories: philosophy, physics

>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