Science and the Bible: Scientific Creationism, Part 2

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June 5, 2012 Tags: Biblical Interpretation

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Science and the Bible: Scientific Creationism, Part 2

In the first half of this column on May 22, I presented five core tenets or assumptions of Scientific Creationism. We resume our discussion of that view today with certain conclusions that follow from those assumptions and a short history of modern creationism.

Some important conclusions of Scientific Creationism

1. Scientific evidence for an old earth is either misleading or misinterpreted

Geologists and other scientists often say that the evidence for an ancient earth and universe is “overwhelming,” because that is probably the best word to describe it. It comes from many different, often independent processes yielding information that can be checked for consistency and coherence. Consequently, almost all scientists (including most Christian scientists) think that the earth and the universe are billions of years old, although the precise figures they would give for those ages might vary just a little.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those scientists are right; scientific theories and conclusions are always somewhat tentative, and many of the things that we presently think will probably be discarded or modified eventually. But, it does mean that the burden of proof is on the creationists: it is they who must persuade the vast majority of scientists that all of that evidence has been badly misinterpreted for all those many years. But even that would not be enough. They must also persuade those same scientists that the evidence actually makes more sense working from an assumption of a recent creation. The scientific attitude is always to ask, why should I think this, rather than that? It is not true that the evidence can be interpreted equally well to fit either a “young” or an “old” earth, or that it all comes down to making different assumptions.

The evidence for an ancient earth can be divided into two general categories: radiometric data (pertaining to radioactive decay processes of various specific types) and other data. Let me point to a few of the best places where you can learn about how conclusions are reached in this area of science. Roger Wiens’ article is a great place to start. After that, this well-written, wide-ranging book is the single best overview I have seen, and you don’t need a science background to understand most of it (the web site is good, but be sure to borrow the book itself). Another comprehensive site that includes links to creationist material can be found here.

On the other hand, YECs devote much time and energy to refuting this standard evidence and to providing evidence for a “recent” creation. Their focus has usually been to raise doubts about uniformitarianism, the idea that physical processes in the past were no different than those we find now, in terms of the mechanisms that drive them. The most comprehensive project of this sort, known as RATE, is described on the Institute for Creation Research's website (here and here).

2. Some features of the earth and the universe appear to be much older than they really are because they were created with apparent age

The basic idea is simple: weren’t Adam and Eve created as adults? If you saw them ten minutes after they took their first breaths, wouldn’t you think they’d been alive for many years? Related to this is the famous question, did Adam and Eve have navels? Obviously they had no need of them, since they didn’t have mothers, but if they were created to look older they might also have lots of “evidence” from earlier “years” that they never actually lived through. You get the drift. The whole question of apparent age was presented in great detail in a highly original book published in 1857 (just two years before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species) by the English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse. The title of the book, Omphalos, is the Greek word for “navel”. Now you know why!

Henry Morris and other creationists of an earlier generation used this idea deliberately and often, but contemporary creationists are much more reluctant to do so. The idea of a false history is obviously not very attractive to those who believe in a trustworthy God, so contemporary creationists do their best to avoid it. Nevertheless, it still keeps coming up, despite efforts to paper it over.

3. The fossils provide an accurate record of the types of plants and animals that were killed in the Flood; they were laid down all at once, not over millions of years. Therefore, the “fossil record” does NOT tell us the order in which various forms of life appeared and disappeared through eons of earth history

We explained this when we mentioned “Flood Geology” in Part One. I restate it here, as an explicit conclusion, to make sure you don’t miss it: Flood Geology claims to undermine the argument for evolution from the fossil record.

4. Quite a bit of “micro-evolution” has happened within “created kinds” since the creation week, especially since the Flood (after which the world had to be repopulated, starting from the creatures that made it onto the Ark), but “macro-evolution” is denied by the evidence

A big question related to this is “How many ‘transitional’ forms need to be found before an inference to common ancestry is justified?” For creationist John Morris (son of the late Henry Morris), transitional forms are virtually non-existent, creating in his opinion a huge problem for evolution. On the other hand, creationist theorist Todd Wood thinks that certain “intermediate” forms (as he calls them) are definitely representative of transitions that occur within a “baramin”—a word meaning “created kind” that creationists coined by combining the Hebrew words for “create” (“bara”) and “kind” (“min”) in Genesis. In his view (contrary to Morris), the famous series of horse fossils is likely the outworking of variation within the horse baramin. Other famous fossil “intermediates,” such as feathered dinosaurs or fossil hominids, are more challenging, and it’s not clear how they could be interpreted within a creationist framework.

The basic problem here is a disagreement about what counts as a transitional form. It’s always possible to argue that the discovery of a new type of animal, apparently an intermediate between two already known types of animal, has just created two new “gaps” in the fossil record that replace one older (but larger) “gap.” There is obviously no end to this type of “infinite regress” argument.

Historical Comments

From the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century (roughly 1860 to 1960), most conservative Protestant writers in the United States accepted the validity of an old earth and universe. This is reflected in the notes to Genesis One in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), which was very widely used by conservative Protestants in North America and England for decades. I will say more about this in my next column; for the time being, please accept it as a fact.

Many conservative Protestant writers also believed that Noah’s flood had been geographically localized, covering part of the ancient Near East but not the whole globe, an interpretation popularized by the English abolitionist theologian John Pye Smith. Most writers in this period believed that the flood did not have very much geological significance, whether or not it was “local.” In short, they did not believe in Flood Geology.

During this period, belief in the combination of a young earth and Flood Geology was prominent only among fringe groups such as the Seventh-day Adventists, who followed the creationist views of prophetess Ellen G. White. She claimed to have experienced trance-like “visions” in which God revealed various truths to her. Describing a vision about the creation week, she wrote about how she was “carried back to the creation and was shown that that the first week, in which God performed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh day, was just like every other week.” (This connects closely with Adventist teaching about Saturday worship.)

White’s ideas were later popularized by another Adventist, the Canadian schoolteacher George McCready Price, who wrote dozens of books over six decades. Price was inspired by White’s “revealing word pictures of the Edenic beginning of the world, of the fall and the world apostasy, and of the flood.” The more he delved into White, the more he saw a need to spread her ideas and to combat what he regarded as the godless theory of evolution.

In 1906, Price published a thick pamphlet (now rare) called Illogical Geology: The Weakest Point in the Evolution Theory (pictured at the top of this post).

As the subtitle indicates, it was intended to attack evolution at its “weakest point,” geology. Price rejected the standard geological column, the organizing principle according to which younger rock is found on top of older layers and certain specific fossils are used to help date the layers in which they are deposited. Instead, Price proposed that the fossil-bearing rocks had been produced all at once, during human history, in a single world-wide flood—the one in which Noah built an ark. In Price’s pamphlet we find the main elements of Scientific Creationism: the creation of the earth about 6000 years ago, the creation of all life in six literal days, and Flood Geology.

Price developed this picture more fully in many lengthy books and numerous articles in religious magazines—and not just Adventist magazines. In the years surrounding the Scopes trial (which took place in the summer of 1925), fundamentalists paid a great deal of attention to Price, so much so that William Jennings Bryan tried to persuade him to appear as an expert witness on the creationist side (Price, who was in England at the time, declined to make the trip).

Significantly, fundamentalist leaders admired Price’s opposition to evolution, but not his defense of a young earth and Flood Geology. Like Bryan, they accepted an old earth and the extinction of many animals long before humans existed. The testimony of Baptist preacher William Bell Riley, founding president of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, is quite revealing: he could not identify a single “intelligent fundamentalist who claims that the earth was made six thousand years ago; and the Bible never taught any such thing.” (Quoted by Ronald Numbers, The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, 2006, p. 60.)

Indeed, commitment to a young earth and Flood Geology remained on the periphery of fundamentalism until the publication of The Genesis Flood, by John C. Whitcomb and Henry Morris, in 1961. Morris had already endorsed Price’s ideas in a book, That You Might Believe (1946), which Morris later described as “the first book published since the Scopes trial in which a scientist from a secular university advocated recent special creation and a worldwide flood.” Several years later, after Whitcomb heard Morris speak, Whitcomb decided to base his doctoral dissertation on Price’s young earth and Flood Geology, leading to the jointly written book that launched the modern creationist movement and made Scientific Creationism the generally received view among fundamentalists and many conservative evangelicals today.

Why has Scientific Creationism been so successful? One reason is surely its appeal to Christians who want to have a “biblical biology,” vis-à-vis a biblical view of biology. They aren’t the same thing, but the difference is as subtle as it is important; perhaps you will want to talk about this. Creationists are essentially treating the Bible as a science book, although they don’t want to put it quite that way themselves. This makes sense to large numbers of ordinary Christians, who look to the Bible for guidance in all aspects of their lives and try to take it as literally as possible: why should scientific matters be treated any differently?

Just as surely, another reason is the presence of certain social factors weighing heavily on American Christians. The Genesis Flood appeared in 1961, early in a decade that might have seen more unrest and social change than any other in the last century. The 1960s witnessed the sexual revolution, a great expansion in the use of hallucinogenic drugs, the civil rights movement, Supreme Court decisions against Bible reading and prayer in public schools, hard rock music, Woodstock, and opposition to the Vietnam War. At the same time, evolution was returning to center stage in high school biology texts, after having been effectively removed by publishers after the Scopes trial. For many conservative Christians, too much was changing too quickly—and in the wrong directions.

While most Christian scientists today are not young-earth creationists, tens of millions of Christians are. In his wide-ranging study of modern American religion and science, historian James Gilbert writes perceptively about “a fault line between popular and professional science, ready to break open during times of stress in American culture in the 1920s and again in the postwar period.” Though laying the results of such wide-ranging social upheaval at the feet of a scientific account of biology is certainly an enormous stretch, Answers in Genesis blames racism, pornography, abortion, and the breakup of families on the acceptance of “millions of years” in earth history. While no period was more stressful than the 1960s when Scientific Creationism rose to prominence, Christians today are no less concerned about the pressures contemporary postmodern culture is putting on the traditional values they rightly hold so dear; and they are just as eager as their 20th-century predecessors to identify the sources of cultural decline, and find ways to respond.


Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Bilbo - #70363

June 10th 2012

Hi Merv,

It’s not clear to me what you mean by claiming that the Methodological Naturalist has no “tools” for investigating the Supernatural.  Let’s take the case of Dembski’s pulsar:  We receive signals from a pulsar 100 light years away, and notice that they seem to be morse code, sending the message,  ” I am an omniscient, supernatural being communicating to you via this pulsar.  Even though it is 100 light years away, ask me any question and I wll answer it instantaneosly.”  So we ask it questions that we already know the answers to, and we get immediate replies.  Then we ask it questions that we don’t know the answers to and we get immediate replies that check out as correct.  Then we ask it to factor very large numbers that would take longer than the present age of the universe to factor.  It gives us immediate replies, which when we check (checking factors takes much less time than finding them) are also correct. 

So we seem to have an intelligent source that is able to travel faster than light and compute faster than the time given would allow.  A reasonable answer is that this is a supernatural being.  Someone who thinks science must be committed to methodological naturalism must say that we do not yet have a scientific answer for this phenomena.  I suggest that there is something screwy about that answer.


Bilbo - #70364

June 10th 2012

Or we could imagine a possible world where the empirical evidence supports YEC, e.g., speed of light has been slowing down since 6,000 years ago; all fossils date to no older than 6,000 years, etc.  I think one would reasonably conclude that the empirical evidence supports a recent supernatural creation.  For someone to claim that we cannot call this “science” would be something of a head-scratcher.


Merv - #70368

June 10th 2012

Hi, Bilbo. You wrote (regarding the mysterious pulsar messenger) “Someone who thinks science must be committed to methodological naturalism must say that we do not yet have a scientific answer for this phenomena.”

Well, that someone would be right—permanently so I would wager.  Are you implying, though, that an MN insists that the pulsar messenger & message must be reducible to entirely naturalistic explanations?   If so, I disagree.

In fact, we need not conjure up fictional scenarios.  Every person I meet or talk with (our conversation here) is something I do not think will ever be reducible to purely naturalistic explanations.  I don’t expect science to be able to adjudicate on such a question (whether we truly  have free will.)  How would science ever tackle this philosophical/religious question?  And yet I believe (with conviction) that we do.  So of course I have no problem thinking of many other things as containing elements beyond science such as mysterious hypothetical messages from pulsars.  On the question of how much we should trust such voices from outer space or what sorts of questions we ought to be asking of them ... I would be more likely to be consulting with theologians, historians, Scriptures, than scientists.  Scientists, along with mathematicians could tell us how amazing the receipt of such a message would be, but are not likely to have anything to offer on the significance of the discourse that might follow. 

While reality may end up being a seamless garment were our understanding omniscient, yet it is useful for us to create artificial distinctions—divisions of labor if you will so we can find the most effective sets of tools for each type of question.  If I need to know how to spell a word a dictionary is needed but a microscope or a spectrometer are useless.  But if I need to know the composition of an unknown substance the latter tools become the useful ones.  To find out if God is trustworthy, a Bible or the testimony of people who have spiritual insights and reflections about life are all useful, but dictionaries less so, and science not at all.  Those are examples I have in mind when referring to various tools being appropriate to a task.

-Merv


Merv - #70369

June 10th 2012

I over-state my case just a bit when I refer to science as “useless” on a question of the trust-worthiness of God.  We find comparisons with nature used widely in Scriptures to showcase God’s faithfulness—the sun coming up each morning without fail.  Science does help us see such things in exquisite detail and even appreciate more deeply the physical side of that comparison that ancients could not yet recognize (planetary inertia), but the essential message was rooted in revelation from Scripture which only then appropriates a tool like science to give us extraordinary focus on the physical aspect of that.  But we are not to forget; such passages are about God, not about planets or suns.  The heart of that message didn’t originate with science.  Instead, it appropriated science for theistic eyes, and cannot (in any way I can imagine) be rooted in science.

-Merv


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70371

June 11th 2012

Merv,

Don’t be so dualistic.  The universe is rational because it was created by God the Father through God the Logos, the rational Son/Word.  Science is rational in that it reflects the rationality of the universe rooted in the Logos.  They are two sides of the same coin, at least this is what the Bible says. 

Naturalism does not recognize the Logos is the basis of the natural order and when push comes to shove claims that their is no natural order, that is the universe is not rational or purposeful.  Because the universe is manifestly rational and purposeful, Naturalism is intellectually bankrupt.

Science is not the Source of Truth, but science in its study of the universe confirms the Truth of the Logos.  The primary exception is Darwinism and that is why I have taken special care to explain the Darwinian natural selection based on Malthusian population theory is not correct and ecological natural selection makes much more scientific and theological sense. 

Thus when we understand the science of evolution properly through the ecology of the Logos and when we undserstand the Bible of the Logos, we come to the same conclusion, all knowledge and understanding are based on the Logos.  It is as clear and simple as that and no speculation by Creationists or Scientism can or will change that.

   


Merv - #70372

June 11th 2012

Roger, I haven’t defended Naturalism; I’m not a Naturalist.  As to being a dualist, if you are responding to my last couple of posts, I’m probably more accurately a “polyist” than a mere dualist.  I see human academic endeavors usefully divided into many (not just two) categories ...   language arts, history, science, mathematics, theology, social/psychological programs.  Each has its somewhat distinctive sets of tools that are fitted for that specific discipline.  Then if you read what I wrote about reality probably being “seamless” from omniscient perspective,—I suppose that would be a nod to monism.  Since nobody but God is omniscient, I don’t worry about that so much.  I live with the academic realities of my own (our own) limited visions that craft these different approaches and specialties precisely because we are so individually limited.  The apostle Paul speaks of the body having many indispensible but very different parts.  His metaphor can be nicely extended into our academic world.  It’s what God has given us, and allowed us to work with.

-Merv


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70373

June 11th 2012

Merv,

Pleaswee forgifve me if I take out some of my frustration on you that is really targeted at the culture at large.

The proper Biblical, Pauline image is “looking through a glass darkly” to use of King James language, meaning “looking through a distorted, unclear lens.”  Humans do not understand God completely, nor do we understand the universe completely.  However that does not prevent us from using and acting upon what we do understand to live the best kind of faithful life that we can. 

We need to recognize our limits on all areas of life, but having done that we need to act within those limits with the best information we have, knowing that certainty does not exist and we are called to live by faith, otherwise we would all be “agnostic” waiting around for God to speak to us through His pulsar.   

We are not God, but we are created in the Image of God.  This means that we are called to be active as God is active, not to be passive as the world would have us be reactive.  

1 Cor 12 is about the Unity of the Church (Body of Christ) through the Holy Spirit.  Thus if you are to use that model you need to also stress the unity of the body as well as the diversity.  The Logos provides the unity, while the Spirit makes possible the unity in diversity, which is the foundation of evolved life.  Christian theology providea a solid foundation for the evolutionary nature of life, while naturalism and creationism do not.  

You do not have to be omnicient to know the Logos or to know the Spirit, which is the relational foundation of reality.  That is the myth of today’s world, you must know everything to know something, which just is not true.  

 


Merv - #70374

June 11th 2012

You don’t need to apologize, Roger, for any frustrations you may feel.  In fact I gather, from reading what you write here, that your response isn’t specifically to these posts of mine but to our wider culture.  Even though I don’t agree with everything you’ve written everywhere, your paragraph above contains mostly generalities that I am agreeable with and don’t view as contrary to what I’ve expressed.  Indeed when you speak of Christ as the Logos, I happily chime in with you; thinking of the Bible as the pointer to the whole truth found in Christ rather than the Bible itself being the complete embodiment (or end) of all truth.  Just as the O.T. has vectors that point us to and anticipate the N.T. ... so the N.T. much more sharply narrows that focus down to Christ, our final (and unrivaled) focal point.  All else fades (or should) when Christ is in view.  Rules, law, knowledge all fade in comparison with having relationship with Christ.  It is, for us, finally relational.  I’ve appreciated your emphasis with that too, Roger, and I fully agree.

In other threads you have advocated for something of a revolutionary new paradigm for all these things because you apparently view all the old ways of thought as inadequate for us today.  On that I diverge from you.  Certainly we know things today that weren’t spelled out then or accomodated for in old paradigms.  But they knew everything they needed to know.  God saw to that.  He would not leave previous ages bereft of important or spiritually vital knowledge just because they didn’t happen to know a few things about the mechanics of this world.  And the foundation they had then with Christ as the cornerstone is still our thoroughly adequate foundation still essential for us today.  We are just endeavoring to build on it, and time will reveal whether the edifices we are erecting are made of gold or straw. 

-Merv


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70375

June 11th 2012

Merv,

I am glad that we agree theologically.

I regret that we disagree about the future.  There have been times in the past when the Church has had to move on beyond old ideas into the future.

Augustine moved the Western Church beyond ancient times toward modernity and beyond.  In doing so the Western Church left behind the Eastern Orthodox communion.

Then Martin Luther looked at the Church of his day and decided it needed basic reform, which he commenced to do.  The same with John Wesley who laid the basis of most of the modern Protestant churches to meet the needs of the developments of democracy, industrialization, and science. 

If evolution is real and it seems as it is, it means that we must move with God’s history not against it.  The Logos is always the foundation, but as humanity changes, as the challenges that we face become more difficult, then our understanding of God and God’s univervse must change and grow. 

The problem is not God or with old ideas.  The problem is that change is always required if we are to keep up with God’s salvation history.  God is leading God’s people into the future, not telling them to be satisfied with the past. 


Merv - #70386

June 11th 2012

So do you think of the western church as superior to the still existing eastern orthodox church?  Or are protestants today superior to today’s Catholics?  And hey—if we follow this logic (I can’t resist) does that mean my own anabaptist tradition with its radical reformationist standings gets to be at the top of the reformation heap since they thought Luther, Zwingli, et all didn’t take it far enough and still left their new churches under state control?  

I’m being facetious, of course.  Now that we’re all done getting burned at the stake, we shouldn’t take for granted such unity as we now do enjoy.

I guess the question one should ponder is:  Are we building creatively [adaptively] on the tried and true foundation of Christ?  Or are we trying to switch to different foundations?  I ask rhetorically since I think you’ll agree we need to cling to the first option.  You’re right that change seems (paradoxically) to be the rule of history.  We do see the church facing new problems in new ways and should take note of how they followed the Spirit and ventured into new territory even as recorded in the N.T. for us.  If you want to posture it that way ... I agree that the church should be all about that:  following Christ as always.

-Merv


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70389

June 11th 2012

Merv,

Thank you for your confirmation. Change and continuity is what the Logos is all about. 

Sadly there are people who say they want change, such as Revival, but are unwilling accept real change.  They want change on their own terms, not real cahnge on God’s terms.  This seems to be a real problem in the Church today.  

But the issue that I am trying to point out is that the way we know, our world view, our mode of thinking, primary does not come from the Bible, but from Greek philosophy, which was built on a pagan belief system.  Thus we have a Trinitarian belief system interpreted by a basically dualistic understanding of the Creation. 

Dualistic philosophy works pretty well with OT legalism, but not with NT salvation by grace.  Thus we need to be prepared to go beyond our current understanding of the nature of reality to bring our worldview more in line with what science and nature tell us is real in accordance with the revelation of the LOGOS. 


Bilbo - #70390

June 11th 2012

Hi Merv,

(I was careful to have the signal from the pulsar describe itself as a supernatural, omniscient being, not God, for a reason.) 

But what I think I’ve done is offer a hypothetical example (two, including the seond example of scientific evidence of 6,000 year old earth) that I think most people in the scientific community would accept as scientific evidence of the supernatural.

I think people such as yourself (and Mike Gene) tend to idealize what “science” means.  Thus Mike doesn’t think that if SETI found the type of radio signal they were looking for that this would be science.  I think the question is whether the scientific community would consider it science.  And I think they overwhelmingly would do so.  Likewise with the pulsar example.

What has happened is a historical development, where the use of methodological naturalism has been very successful in scientific endeavors, so that it has become almost synonymous with science.  But there is no reason to think that science must always constrict itself to MN.  Before Darwin, scientists regularly assumed that God had created various species directly, and it was their job to understand the purpose of that creation.  In other words, it was their job to think teleologically.  If ID is correct, it would restore that point of view to biology, and MN would take the back seat.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70393

June 11th 2012

Bilbo,

I do not think that ID is necessary for the renewal of teleological thinking.  The Anthropic Principle has already done that.  So has ecology.


Merv - #70403

June 12th 2012

I probably misunderstand you at some points here, Bilbo—or at least have trouble following.  I’m not sure how I am idealizing science when in fact I ascribe more limitations to science that end up precluding things that you think ought to be included.

And on that score ... you’ve got me thinking some more.  Again, I’ll take your example of SETI or the omniscient pulsar voice (I’m not sure what the significance was as to how that voice does or doesn’t describe itself)—and bring that down to an example that isn’t even hypothetical:   When scientists talk to and argue with each other, are they doing science?  I think most would agree—I certainly would—that they are indeed engaging in a vital part of what we call science.  So if I accept that our own thoughts, interactions (which are bound up with free-will) are part of the scientific process, have I not already “allowed” something in that according to you, violates MN? 

I don’t subscribe to some strict rule that acts as a gatekeeper for science barring the way for anything not meeting its definition of science.  I see MN more as a useful description of just what science is able to deal with.  Imagine an athletic coach making an off-the-cuff declaration to his colleagues that no true athlete can, under his own power, run a mile in less than 3 minutes (implying that the claim to do such a thing would need to be investigated.)   Now this coach isn’t trying to limit the scope of what can be considered athletic.  He isn’t going to subject all persons who aspire to be “athletes” to a restrictive test so as to exclude any of them that might accomplish this.  He’s just making an observation that fits a reality matching what he has seen so far.  And his conjecture, safely true as it may seem, is more likely to get upset than that something “supernatural” become explainable in “natural” terms, and yet retain the former label.  That involves changing definitions, does it not?  By its very definitional essence, a supernatural event does not have a natural cause.  What then, could science investigate about such a thing?

-Merv


Bilbo - #70396

June 11th 2012

Hi Roger,

I agree that the Anthropic Principle has restored some teleology to science.  I don’t understand how ecology has done so.  Could you briefly exlain?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70404

June 12th 2012

Bilbo,

Thank you for your question.

The problem with ecology is that science has not fully accepted it and also because it is a part of the life sciences it is not treated as seriously as the physical sciences.

Ecology tells us that God (or nature) has created a complex interconnected environment needed for life to be sustained and to fluourish.  This is the teleological aspect of ecology which is not really a part of Darwinian evolution, although it needs to be.

Right now we are feeling the consequences of severe weather and food shortages because humans at first unwittingly but now with no excuse have distorted this system by burning an abnormal amount of fossil fuels and introducing other pollutants into the air, water, and land.

We are finding that our abuse of God’s Creation has serious consequences, which is the basis of teleology.  Sadly many believers and non-believers do not want to accept their responsibility for their selfishness.  


Nicholas Olsen - #70399

June 12th 2012

I wana respond to the “apparent age” point.

YECs may or may not hold to these points, but i’ve seen all of them used by a handful of YECs.

1.) Physical laws and biological nature was flawed “cursed” after Adam’s sin, so any historical work that goes beyond 6,500 yrs ago is based on “cursed” nature and cannot be trusted.

2.) Ken Ham has said this about nature being “cursed” as if we can’t trust science’s tools to get accurate history.

3.) Universe created mature or with age built into it.

4.) Science is fundamentally flawed and the universe can be confirmed by proper science to be 6,500 yrd old.

1 & 3 are minaly what you’re talking about and i have some problems with that in major ways. 1 asserts an historical boundary that when crossed; cannot be trusted. Any progression from 6,500 yrs onward is a lost cause. 3 says that our God given abilities (Galileo’s famous quote about sense, intellect and reason coming from God) to reason and do science are properly functioning, but will always yield a wrong result about the “real” age of the universe.

 The implications of 1 & 3 in some shape or another get you at 2. I have big issues with this, because doing this means that you would say our God given abilities don’t actually produce accuracy when properly used. Why would God give us something when properly used produces a wrong result? 

Scientific creationism claims the easiest and plainest interpretation of Genesis 1, but saying that sin cursed the physical and biological nature of things….. you ultimately say that the tools i used to arrive at this interpretation are faulty. I think this is the elephant in the room that doesn’t get noticed.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70405

June 12th 2012

Nicholas,

Interesting arguments.

While there is no doubt that God could have created the universe 6,500 years ago if God had chosen to do so, the issue of apparent age seems to be an unsolvable problem for YEC.  Of course we must remember the evidence indicates that this date is not off by just a little bit but by a big bit.

One possible rationale for this discrepancy might be that it is a test to see if believers trust the Bible more than human science.  This does seem the basic issue for most Creationists, however it is denied by the Bible itself. 

James 1:13  When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; (Note: The word translated as tempt means test.)

Thus according to the Bible the geology of the earth cannot be a test from God.  We also know that God does not lie and Satan is the Father of lies.  Thus if the geology of the earth is misleading it must come from Satan. 

However the Bible also clearly says that God the Father created the universe through Jesus the Logos, and “All things came into being through Him and without Him not one thing came into being.” John 1:3 NRSV  Jesus does not mislead or lie. 

I have heard some people say that the Devil is the Ruler of this world, thus all things of this world are false.  Maybe they can use the words of Satan spoken when he offered the kingdoms of this world to Jesus.(Mt 4:8)  However if the Devil said it , it must be a lie, because he is unable to tell the truth.

God is still in control.  Yes, the Devil is powerful compared to humans without the Spirit, but compared to Jesus and the Father and the Spirit, he is insignificant.

 


Bilbo - #70414

June 12th 2012

Hi Merv,

You wrote:  “ By its very definitional essence, a supernatural event does not have a natural cause.  What then, could science investigate about such a thing?

Using the Pulsar example, scientists could say, “The signals emanating from that pulsar most likely have a supernatural cause (a cause outside of our spatio/temporal universe).”


Bilbo - #70415

June 12th 2012

Hi Roger,

I’m not following your point about ecology.  Are you saying that ecology demonstrates that God has designed nature to live in a certain harmonious state that we must be careful not to violate?  I think I agree with that, but I’m not sure most scientists would agree that it was designed by God.  And I’m not sure they would agree that there is something teleological about ecology.  But perhaps I’m not following your point.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70425

June 13th 2012

Bilbo,

Thank you for your question.  I think that you understand the issues and problems quite well.

The first question is, Is ecology evidence for “design” of our planet?  You say Yes and I agree, but that does not mean that others see it that way. 

However even Dawkins and Dennett cannot avoid the issue that life on this planet is interconnected in a marvelous and an unexplained way.  Does this mean that God created the universe and our world?  Of course they deny it but I think that it is the best explanation, even if it is not a scientific explanation.

What is the teleology or purpose of ecology and evolution?  Some have suggested that it is complexity, which makes some sense.  The bioworld seems to becoming more and more complex.  Gould however points out that complexity is not always the best answer for ecological problems.  In my opinion diversity is a better answer for the Teleos of ecology. 

I guess what I am trying to explain is that ecology is leading science in a certain direction if we care to follow.  It is not what scientists want to believe or think, but where science and nature are leading them and us.         

 


GJDS - #70418

June 12th 2012

Hi Bilbo, Merv, and Roger,

Interesting points. I would add the following contribution to this discussion:

Example 1: Perhaps another example besides the ‘supernatural pulsar’. The speed of light is considered a constant, yet reports have appeared where scientists think this may be exceeded. I am not referring to the recent reports from Europe, but another experiment where one side of a crystal was excited using a laser, and an event measured at the other end in a time that required the light to travel faster than the speed of light. Scientists did not, and would not, seek a supernatural explanation for this even though it appeared to violate an established fact. Eventually I think the observation was rationalised as an excitation of electrons at one face of the crystal which caused a virtual ‘instantaneous’ excitation and emission at the other ‘end face’. I cannot remember the paper and I think it was some time ago. The point is that the scientific method inevitably seeks a ‘point or rest’ that is question asking. This, in my view, differs from the posturing offered by some public advocates that science (or whatever ‘ism’ is invoked) provides belief.

Example 2: The ecological view is somewhat more difficult to articulate. I think one way to say it is that biological considerations look to life forms within a changing and adaptive matrix, while ecology sees all bio-, and planetary aspects, as so interdependent, that it may be illogical to consider the ecology as a setting and bio-forms as that which changes. This implies feed-back circuits in the planetary system and the various sciences develop a particular view of the phenomena that is due to the entire world (or Universe) of real objects.


Bilbo - #70422

June 13th 2012

Hi GJDS,

Interesting points.  Yes, if scientists found independent evidence of faster than light speed occurrences, then I think they might revise their conclusion from the source of the pulsar signals being supernatural to it being just natural, though they would still need to explain its ability to factor numbers in less time than should be needed, and having the ability to manipulate neutron stars.

I think I’m beginning to get the ecology idea, though it’s still kind of fuzzy.  Is the idea that our planet is sort of like a living organism?


GJDS - #70424

June 13th 2012

Hi Bilbo,

I guess I am trying to show that science brings questions that involve imagination and it is here that science becomes both ‘fun’ and fictitious (which may bother the brute facts chaps); it is where we find belief and self-certainty that is common to routine existence, with considering the unknown and the maybe. I cannot express this in other ways. Where do we find the supernatural in all this? in a humorous sense, I would say, “Heaven only knows!”

The ecology idea is something that I am personally drawn to, in that the planet may be described as ‘planet life’. By this, I am speaking more in poetic terms, in that the wonder of the planet is that life continues to exist no matter what. Indeed, the only thing that seems to stick out like a sore thumb is the human species. The planet can undergo many changes, without losing or gaining anything, or in our terms, become diminished in any way in that it continues as it is - continues to sustain life, because life sustains the planet to be as it is. We humans, however, can truly diminish the planet, or we can add to it, depending on what we decide to do collectively. The latest saga is climate change, and I guess many other possibilities that we humans bring to the planet; we build bridges, beautiful buildings, gardens, and so on, feed millions, cure deseases, etc.


Merv - #70427

June 13th 2012

Bilbo, any supernatural event would enter into the normal chain of causation.  So science can certainly see the natural results of that event; but this is different than catching the supernatural event itself.  So if the signals from your pulsar were supernatural in that they arrived faster than they could have naturally, they nevertheless must be behaving as natural waves or else our normal earthbound equipment would not be able to detect them.  My own example of free will may also illustrate this.  Science can certainly see the results of my deciding to do something, but that’s different than capturing the moment of decision itself to be able to render judgment on how free will works or even exists.  In fact even if they hook up machinery to see which parts of my mind “light up” as I think certain thoughts, they are still only seeing natural results of my brain activity which still can’t touch on or give any verdict on the status of free will or moral responsibility.  Those remain solidly in the province of philosophy/religion.

-Merv


Bilbo - #70439

June 13th 2012

Hi Merv,

I think the difference is that if there were a non-physical cause of the the brain event by a non-physical mind (if that is indeed how we are composed), it would be very difficult if not impossible to tell that something besides natural physical events were occurring.  If we have minds that are separate substances interacting with brains, it’s probably happening at the quantum level, with all the difficulties of measurement and predictability associated with that weird quantum stuff.

Whereas with a pulsar sending morse code faster than the speed of light, etc., the difficulties of measurement don’t exist.  It’s rather obvious than something beyond the way the universe normally behaves is happening.  I don’t think it’s just religious people who would say that something supernatural was occurring.  I think most of the scientific community would say it also.  I don’t expect God to make His actions so obvious, nor to allow other supernatural beings to make their actions so obvious, either.  I’m just saying that if they were that obvious, I think the scientific community wouldn’t be so obtuse as to pretend it wasn’t supernatural.


Merv - #70442

June 13th 2012

I imagine you are right about how most scientists would react.  Ones who put themselves forward as most stubborn against any overtly religious faith usually do say something like ... why doesn’t your God just come down and speak with us face to face if he wants us to believe in him so badly?  Reminds me of the movie from the seventies:  “Oh God” (with John Denver) where God does come down in response to demands and puts on a show in a court room.  (As I remember it, I don’t think everyone found the magic show very convincing—at least not at first.)

—Merv


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