Young-Earth Creationists Make God Out to Be a Liar

This comment was left on Facebook in response to a blog post of mine that someone shared:

  • What’s especially ironic is the contrast between the young-earth creationist approaches to scripture, and to the natural world. They insist that the Bible must be literally true in every word, because God does not lie. And yet in denying the obvious evidence of the natural world, they claim that God created with the “appearance of age.” For what purpose? To deceive us, or to test our faith? Either way, by their definition, God is lying.

Faults in the Bible are easily explicable in terms of human beings having written it. It doesn’t claim to be the words of God or inerrant, and so there is no actual issue when it turns out that the Biblical authors didn’t know modern science – except for some theologies which ought to conform to such Biblical data, rather than trying to get the Bible to fit their preconceptions about what it ought to be.

But if one believes that God created the cosmos, whether instantaneously or in six days or through natural processes, then saying that the natural world is deceptive is saying that God is deceptive.

So in order to claim that the Bible is God’s words and as such perfect and always correct, young-earth creationists end up making the created order out to be, as the blog post I referred to called them, “beautiful lies told by God.” They may not admit that this is what their stance implies. But it is precisely that nonetheless.


 

 

  • TomS

    As long as YEC does not spell out in detail as to what happened when the various animals and plants were created, then it is difficult to say anything about it: in particular, whether it was deceptive. But it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which things at the moment of creation do not have the overwhelming appearance of having had a history. It is difficult, for example, to imagine herd mammals surviving for very long except as a herd: a mixture of adults and young, mothers watching over what they think are their offspring, animals with what we would call learned behaviors and knowledge of their environment, animals acting as if they recognize other animals in their herd. Of course, creationists are experts of not providing details, so they can avoid all of this.

    • stuart32

      I think young earth creationists generally want to avoid appealing to the possibility of a false appearance of age. They could argue that sedimentary rocks were initially created in such a way as to suggest that they were the result of a process taking millions of years. Instead, they appeal to a catastrophic flood to lay down all the sedimentary rock in one go, even though the explanation is obviously fallacious.

      What they don’t realise is that they have simply found a different way of giving a false appearance of age. If a flood really did create all sedimentary rock in one go but every geologist who looks at the matter honestly concludes the opposite then we just have a different kind of deception.

      Another good example is the fact that the moon is covered with giant impact craters. If the solar system formed in the way scientists believe then early in its history there would have been a vast number of stray asteroids bombarding the planets. The moon still shows the evidence of this. The earth would have suffered the same bombardment but there has been enough time for erosion to remove the evidence. So the craters on the moon show not just a false appearance of age but a false appearance of a process that could never have happened.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        I too think that creating adult organisms with memories and so on is one thing, while creating a moon with asteroid impact pock marks – and Earth with the same – plus a wide array of rocks that all point to the Earth being one particular age but which is false, is quite something else.

        • stuart32

          Yes, indeed. The way I see it is that if the Universe really is 6000 years old then there are two possibilities: either the Universe was created with a false appearance of age or our brains were created in such a way that we are programmed to continually misinterpret the evidence. Either way the theological implications are unacceptable.

          • TomS

            Yes, there is that other part of the “misinterpretation” to be considered, not only was the universe “designed” to look old, our ways of thinking were also “designed” to interpret the evidence that way. Perhaps there was some constraint on the design of the universe (stars at distances of light-years had to be visible within mere days of their creation), but was there also a need for coordinated constraints on the design of our perceptions and thought?

            BTW, James, I don’t understand what inferences we should draw from your distinction between the “false memories” and “false appearances”. Myself, I would say that the creation of false memories would be more
            objectionable: For example, making a mother believe that this is her offspring vs. leading people to infer that this tree was here years ago.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Yes, I think you are right. I was trying to get at just how objectionable it is to posit that God made the entire cosmos appear to be a particular age, which is deception on a grander scale. But false memories are actually rather horrifying too – although an essential part of YEC if they are going to have God make adult organisms.

              I think the YEC view that God condemns people for believing God’s own lies makes that stance particularly sickening.

            • stuart32

              It could be argued that the heavens reflect the glory of God and that we need to see those distant stars. If we could only see stars within a radius of 6000 light years we would have a very impoverished view of the Universe. But in that case why wouldn’t God create a universe and allow things to unfold as science says they have – over billions of years. Presumably God wasn’t in a hurry.

              • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                stuart32,

                It could be argued that the heavens reflect the glory of God and that we need to see those distant stars. If we could only see stars within a radius of 6000 light years we would have a very impoverished view of the Universe.

                That is something that might appeal to someone who approaches this from the bias of believing in a God with a need to impress.

                If God were a truly perfect being, would he/she/it care about impressing people?

                In what way is the universe with other stars only thousands of light years away (or with light traveling instantly, rather than limited in speed) less impressive than the real universe?

                What is impressive is the amount of cognitive dissonance required to justify belief in a being that behaves according to the morals of the writers of the diverse books of the Bible.

                The later writers have a more evolved morality and have abandoned much of the pettiness and jealousy of the earlier perfect God. Violence is also discouraged, which some might think would make that God less impressive.

                I would be impressed with valid evidence, better morality, and a lack of contradictions.

                .

                • stuart32

                  As an agnostic I probably make a very bad apologist, but I will have a go. I tend to think that this universe is the only kind of universe that God could have created. I don’t think we should expect God to create a universe in which the laws of nature apply inconsistenty. If we applied the methods of science and got consistent results some of the time and nonsense at other times I don’t think this would be good evidence for a perfect being.

                  It is tempting to think that it would be better if we lived in a world in which God controlled everything and continually prevented suffering by thwarting our freely chosen actions. If we did live in such a world I think we would resent it. We would resent God for curtailing our freedom. I think the story of the Garden of Eden is a metaphor for the world which couldn’t actually have existed because we wouldn’t have wanted it to.

                  • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                    stuart32,

                    As an agnostic I probably make a very bad apologist, but I will have a go.

                    In other words, you have to believe. Reality only gets in the way.

                    -

                    I tend to think that this universe is the only kind of universe that God could have created.

                    Why is an omnipotent creature so limited by Creationists? They claim that evolution is not possible for their God.

                    What is so great about being feeble?

                    -

                    If we applied the methods of science and got consistent results some of the time and nonsense at other times I don’t think this would be good evidence for a perfect being.

                    Why?

                    Why is a perfect creature limited by the rules that control the universe?

                    This is supposed to be the creature that created the universe, so he/she/it could have made it in whatever way was appealing.

                    Being outside of the laws affecting the universe is what supernatural means.

                    We use science because it works, not because it is the only way things could have been.

                    -

                    It is tempting to think that it would be better if we lived in a world in which God controlled everything and continually prevented suffering by thwarting our freely chosen actions. If we did live in such a world I think we would resent it.

                    Why?

                    What is so wonderful about a creature that claims to be perfect, but creates imperfection?

                    That is incompetence.

                    If I claim to be perfect, how do I create imperfection?

                    Why would I want to create imperfection?

                    -

                    If we did live in such a world I think we would resent it. We would resent God for curtailing our freedom.

                    What does suffering have to do with free will?

                    What kind of sadist claims that suffering is necessary for free will?

                    If God created everything, then all evil was created by God?

                    Or, are there other Gods?

                    Satan was God’s favorite angel. The angels were created by God. Who, or what, tempted Satan to rebel against God?

                    Why did God create evil and claim that it was not his fault?

                    Why are so many people so gullible that they fall for this blame the victim approach? She was just too sexy, so I had to rape her. It is her fault.

                    -

                    think the story of the Garden of Eden is a metaphor for the world which couldn’t actually have existed because we wouldn’t have wanted it to.

                    Why is knowledge of good and evil forbidden?

                    How can humans have free will without knowledge of good and evil?

                    God forbade knowledge of good and evil.

                    God knew that they would eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

                    God is a trickster, blaming his victims for doing what he intended.

                    God is evil.

                    Or, much more likely, God does not exist, but is explained by people who choose to ignore logic when explaining God.

                    .

                    • stuart32

                      If the measure of an apologist is whether he can provoke a hostile response then perhaps I’m a better one than I thought:) No, Rogue Medic, I don’t have to believe. As I said, I am an agnostic. I am simply not convinced that God would have created a different kind of universe.

                      Referring to the existence of suffering in the world, you question how an perfect being could create imperfection. To me, a world in which the laws of nature worked inconsistently would be an imperfect world.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      stuart32,

                      If the measure of an apologist is whether he can provoke a hostile response then perhaps I’m a better one than I thought:)

                      Why do you assume that my response is hostile?

                      What about characterizing my response as hostile makes your response more reasonable?

                      -

                      I am simply not convinced that God would have created a different kind of universe.

                      Why?

                      What about our lack of understanding of God leads you to determine that you know what limitations he/she/it faces?

                      -

                      To me, a world in which the laws of nature worked inconsistently would be an imperfect world.

                      The actions of God appear to be inconsistent with the existence of a God who intervenes.

                      What horrible creature can allow children, too young to have any ability to be responsible for their actions, suffer through cancer and other diseases, when he/she/it could have not created that evil to begin with?

                      What twisted morality justifies this torture?

                      Even the US Constitution prohibits punishing the children of those who commit the worst crime in the Constitution (treason) from being punished for the crime they did not commit.

                      God is not as moral. He/She/It punishes everyone for doing as expected.

                      Why would the universe require physical laws if there is an all-knowing, all-powerful God to cause it to behave as inconsistently as everything else attributed to God?

                      A perfect being does not, by definition, create imperfection.

                      Imperfection disqualifies one from being considered perfect.

                      .

                    • stuart32

                      I am not an expert on theodicy and even if I was I doubt whether I could give an answer that would satisfy you. I don’t underestimate the problem of suffering, but consider this: when you contemplate the suffering of the world is it any consolation to know that you are seeing proof of the non-existence of God and the shattering of any hope of future redemption?

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      stuart32,

                      when you contemplate the suffering of the world is it any consolation to know that you are seeing proof of the non-existence of God and the shattering of any hope of future redemption?

                      When I contemplate the lack of real presents from Santa under the tree by not believing in Santa Claus, does that make me want to believe?

                      Groucho Marx: It’s all right, that’s in every contract. That’s what they call a sanity clause.

                      Chico Marx: You can’t fool me, there ain’t no sanity clause.

                      -

                      When I consider the psychological problems of conspiracy theorists, does that make their conspiracy theories more believable?

                      -

                      Would it be nice to live forever?

                      Maybe. Maybe not.

                      What kind of horrible person am I that I do not accept some imaginary balm for the real problems of the world?

                      -

                      Does something become real just because it assuages the anxieties of some people?

                      If it did, then comic book powers would be real.

                      I do not believe in comic book powers, either.

                      -

                      I must be a monster for accepting reality.

                      .

                    • stuart32

                      Rogue Medic, your point is entirely valid. I am afraid that I have no answer to it (I did say that I wasn’t much of an apologist). The trouble is that I don’t think you actually want to believe what you are saying. I think you would prefer it if I could convince you that God does exist.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      stuart32,

                      I think you would prefer it if I could convince you that God does exist.

                      I am interested in reality.

                      If there were valid evidence that God were real, it would be foolish to argue with that.

                      However, the God of the Bible is not a good, or nice, God. I would be very disappointed to find out that the universe was designed to treat us so badly.

                      It makes much more sense, morally and logically, if this is all the cumulative effect of many purposeless events.

                      A universe with the God of the Bible in it is Hell – eternal torture for no good reason and with no hope of relief – not even death.

                      Even the worst humans could no longer torture people after death. God is not so nice.

                      An incompetent God does make more sense. He/She/It is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and has very little control over what happens, but somehow has more of an effect than humans.

                      The God of the Bible can’t even get his followers to come close to agreeing on what is moral, but they do seem to be making progress in discarding the more immoral rules of the Bible.

                      That is not reassuring, either.

                      Why would I want either of those choices?

                      A random universe is much less horrible than one with a God.

                      .

                    • stuart32

                      Rogue Medic, I wouldn’t try to defend fundamentalist Christianity. But the choice isn’t between that and atheism; there are other options.

                      I said before that God couldn’t create a universe in which the laws of nature operated inconsistently. You disputed this but I have decided to stick to my guns. The laws of nature can’t be violated, even by God. I am stipulating this as an axiom. A world in which the laws of nature can’t be violated is, unfortunately, a world in which suffering is inevitable. So the Universe was not designed with the intention of inflicting suffering; it was an unavoidable consequence.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      stuart32,

                      The laws of nature can’t be violated, even by God.

                      A God who can create the universe, but cannot control his creation?

                      It would seem that your God has too much to deal with to care about what what people do.

                      This appears to be a God who cannot make things better, or worse, and casts doubt on the afterlife created to deal with the anxiety of being mortal.

                      .

                    • stuart32

                      Rogue Medic, I agree that it isn’t a very encouraging view of God. But you have persuaded me to take the problem of suffering seriously and I agree with you that a God who could intervene but doesn’t is unacceptable. The only option seems to be a God who can’t intervene. That is if there is a God at all.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      stuart32,

                      That is why I like science.

                      Science is not about finding answers that are agreeable, but finding the truth and adapting to the truth.

                      If there is some kind of a God, I do not see any way that it could be what is described in the Bible.

                      .

                    • stuart32

                      Rogue Medic, yes, I agree. I had been flirting with belief in God recently, but I think I have been deluding myself. Thanks for an interesting discussion.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      stuart32,

                      Thank you for an interesting discussion, as well.

                      .

                  • arcseconds

                    Perhaps we wouldn’t resent it. But freedom, and therefore also goodness, would be impossible in a world where God was evident everywhere.

                    If Mother is always watching, you won’t steal the cookies from the cookie jar, no matter how venal you are.

                    We would become little better than pets.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      arcseconds,

                      Perhaps we wouldn’t resent it. But freedom, and therefore also goodness, would be impossible in a world where God was evident everywhere.

                      Why?

                      Many religious people claim that bad/evil comes from the Devil, not from freedom.

                      What about freedom motivates free people to be bad?

                      Is free will the reason God does so many evil things?

                      Or, are you claiming that god does not have free will?

                      If God has free will, but is good, why would free will corrupt others and why did God screw this up so horribly?

                      .

                    • arcseconds

                      I think you’ve misunderstood my point.

                      If you’re subject to constant oversight by a vigilant authority figure who will prevent you from doing anything wrong, then you can’t really be good. Yes, your actions won’t be bad, but that’s because you’re being watched and inhibited, not because you choose good for its own sake.

                      Whether or not I’m inclined to steal your wallet is irrelevant if you’re standing over the wallet with a big stick. I can’t really be said to choose to not steal your wallet in that case. The only opportunity I have to be good (or bad) is if you leave your wallet unattended.

                      The point isn’t that freedom entails that some people will choose to do bad things. The point is that freedom is necessary for people to choose anything at all.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      arcseconds,

                      If you’re subject to constant oversight by a vigilant authority figure who will prevent you from doing anything wrong, then you can’t really be good.

                      So we only have a binary world of free will or that?

                      -

                      Whether or not I’m inclined to steal your wallet is irrelevant if you’re standing over the wallet with a big stick. I can’t really be said to choose to not steal your wallet in that case.

                      You have never heard of a bank robbery?

                      Compared to standing on a wallet with a big stick, putting money in the bank would seem to make theft even more impossible.

                      -

                      The point isn’t that freedom entails that some people will choose to do bad things. The point is that freedom is necessary for people to choose anything at all.

                      And the one time people choose to exercise that freedom, by accessing the knowledge necessary to understand that freedom, they are hit with cancer, plague, babies born with horrible mutations, et cetera.

                      Living in a world with no gradations does make things simple, but it does not seem to have anything to do with reality.

                      .

                    • arcseconds

                      If you’re subject to constant oversight by a vigilant authority
                      figure who will prevent you from doing anything wrong, then you can’t really be good.

                      So we only have a binary world of free will or that?

                      I don’t really know what you mean by your remark. It doesn’t even seem to be a grammatically correct sentence.

                      I’m guessing you mean ‘do you mean we only have the freedom to choose between good and bad?’ or something like that. No, I don’t think that. What makes you think I do?

                      You have never heard of a bank robbery?

                      OK, I’m confused. Perhaps you could tell me what you thought my point was, and what relevance mentioning a bank robbery has.

                      I mean, if you understood my point, it should be easy to see how it would apply to a bank robbery as well.

                      And the one time people choose to exercise that freedom, by accessing the knowledge necessary to understand that freedom, they are hit with cancer, plague, babies born with horrible mutations, et cetera.

                      I have no idea where this came from or where you’re going with this. Is it a reference to Genesis and extra-biblical theories that have arisen from taking it literally?

                      If so, perhaps you could tell me what relevance you think it has?

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      arcsecond,

                      I’m guessing you mean ‘do you mean we only have the freedom to choose between good and bad?’ or something like that. No, I don’t think that. What makes you think I do?

                      No. You present this as extremes, with nothing between.

                      That is not choosing between good and bad, but between being robotically controlled and anarchy. Anything less than anarchy is not free will. I do not agree with that even a little bit.

                      -

                      You wrote –

                      Whether or not I’m inclined to steal your wallet is irrelevant if you’re standing over the wallet with a big stick. I can’t really be said to choose to not steal your wallet in that case.

                      My response was –

                      You have never heard of a bank robbery?

                      Clearly, someone robbing a bank is not going to be discouraged by a someone with a stick.

                      There are many degrees of freedom. You still present this as binary – on or off, but nothing between the extremes.

                      -

                      If so, perhaps you could tell me what relevance you think it has?

                      Adam and Eve is the story of the brief Biblical period when people supposedly had free will, but had no understanding of the consequences of choice, since they had not yet eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

                      Of course, we are just discussing a book of fiction, so it does not make sense.

                      Free will is much more than just choosing to follow one preacher’s interpretation of one of the many holy books out there.

                      There are so many preachers, with so many interpretations of so many holy books. We disobey them constantly. :-)

                      .

                    • arcseconds

                      You have such a flair for the dramatic, don’t you?

                      We were discussing what the world would be like if God intervened to stop all the badness. That’s a pretty extreme example! A being that will prevail to prevent anything it doesn’t like, and, given traditional Christian morality, or even just mainstream Western morality, that’s a pretty big list.

                      I was discussing just that point, no other. So yes, I’m presenting one extreme example.

                      Which you’ve turned into some kind of DRAMA where I’m being all BLACK and WHITE and refusing to admit of shades of grey.

                      Thing is, I can’t actually express the full subtlety and sophistication in my thought in a five-line blog post. If you’re actually interested in my ideas on this matter, asking questions is a better way of going about it than getting all excited about how extreme I’m being.

                      As for the wallet theft versus bank robbery, I don’t think you understood my point at all. As I thought I had made myself fairly clear about that, I’m not sure how to clarify things for you. What did you think my point was?

                      I’m still unclear as to what relevance you see Genesis as having to our discussion. We weren’t discussing what knowledge is necessary to act freely, and nor did I mention Genesis or following any preachers.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      arcseconds,

                      You have such a flair for the dramatic, don’t you?

                      No.

                      -

                      We were discussing what the world would be like if God intervened to stop all the badness. That’s a pretty extreme example!

                      I guess your God is just a run of the mill God.

                      The God of the Bible is extreme.

                      -

                      Which you’ve turned into some kind of DRAMA where I’m being all BLACK and WHITE and refusing to admit of shades of grey.

                      Show me the shades of gray.

                      -

                      Thing is, I can’t actually express the full subtlety and sophistication in my thought in a five-line blog post. If you’re actually interested in my ideas on this matter, asking questions is a better way of going about it than getting all excited about how extreme I’m being.

                      I am not excited, but we are discussing the ultimate drama queen – God.

                      -

                      As for the wallet theft versus bank robbery, I don’t think you understood my point at all. As I thought I had made myself fairly clear about that, I’m not sure how to clarify things for you. What did you think my point was?

                      The big stick prevents any significant thought of robbery.

                      The big stick is kind of a watered down version of the threat of damnation.

                      Obviously, if a person were faced with that kind of extreme big stick, it would be impossible to have any free will.

                      -

                      I’m still unclear as to what relevance you see Genesis as having to our discussion. We weren’t discussing what knowledge is necessary to act freely, and nor did I mention Genesis or following any preachers.

                      OK.

                      Understanding free will is not to be a part of a discussion of free will.

                      Please explain what limitations you require on a discussion of free will, so that I do not bring up topics that displease you.

                      .

                    • arcseconds

                      So, you have at least somewhat understood my point. I therefore am even more confused about your bank robbery example.

                      It sounds like we agree that if every action is rigorously controlled, either by being prevented from performing certain actions or by sure punishment if those actions are undertaken, there is little room for free will.

                      Someone used to having autonomy could even exercise some here, maybe, particularly if they’re willing to suffer punishment to prove a point. But I don’t think this kind of environment is conducive to fostering autonomy. People don’t have to take real responsibility for their own actions, they just have to avoid the bad stuff for no reason other than something bad will happen to them.

                      The fewer kinds of actions are controlled, and the less they are controlled, the less the authority directly impinges on freedom. However, in the absence of any control whatsoever, people can end up doing bad things to each other, and people doing bad things is itself a limitation on freedom. So to the extent society has people who are willing to walk all over other people (or even step on their toes), society does need some level of control to allow everyone to be as free as possible. Even a society with only good people in it would still presumably need a way of making decisions, resolving disputes, and making sure the decisions and resolutions are carried out, even if it was just social pressure,

                      Is that enough grey for you?

                      All of this is pretty obvious, I think, but you did ask.

                      (Or rather, you demanded. Demanding is so much more dramatic than asking, isn’t it?)

                      It’s obvious that rigorous, total and complete law-enforcement takes away the freedom to be bad, but it’s not quite so obvious that it also takes away the freedom to be good. That was the real point of my wallet example: I can’t demonstrate honesty and integrity if I’m always been watched. If I never get to demonstrate it, I can never learn it.

                      The same point applies to bank robbery. We’re effectively prevented from robbing banks. As a result, it’s easy for us to not rob banks, but we don’t really choose to not rob banks, any more than a prisoner can choose to remain in their cell.

                      (I’m not sure how much this helps, because I’m really still unclear as to why you ever raised this example in the first place)

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      arcseconds,

                      Even a society with only good people in it would still presumably need a way of making decisions, resolving disputes, and making sure the decisions and resolutions are carried out, even if it was just social pressure,

                      We call that civilization. We do not call that God.

                      Statists might disagree.

                      -

                      It’s obvious that rigorous, total and complete law-enforcement takes away the freedom to be bad, but it’s not quite so obvious that it also takes away the freedom to be good.

                      No.

                      The War on Drugs/War on Crime does not seem to have much of an effect of decreasing these activities.

                      Extreme law enforcement may have the opposite effect.

                      The Soviet Union died for many reasons, but this is one of the reasons.

                      Communist China is becoming much more free, even if it has a long way to go.

                      -

                      (I’m not sure how much this helps, because I’m really still unclear as to why you ever raised this example in the first place)

                      You appear to claim that freedom is not freedom, when there are strong penalties/disincentives.

                      What could be a stronger disincentive than damnation?

                      Damnation is eternal, unremitting torture for no purpose other than to torture, thereby having no possibility of even slight relief.

                      This is the basis of Pascal’s misguided wager.

                      As if there is only one interpretation of God to choose from.

                      Pick the wrong one and you may be just as guilty as if you chose none. Odds are thousands to one against the wagerer.

                      If the deity does not care which interpretation you choose, then the wager does not matter, except that people will waste time and effort trying to pick the right interpretation of a deity to please.

                      If there is no deity, then the wager likewise does not matter.

                      But why choose to believe that one can pick the right interpretation of a petty deity?

                      -

                      But OK. What can we learn about free will from Genesis?

                      Genesis gives us an example of the idea of fair play involved in the God of the Bible’s version of free will.

                      Choose heads or tails! Heads I win, tails you lose.

                      It does affect what we consider to be free will.

                      The rules are not fair and depend on the interpretations of preachers. These preachers may not interpret the rules in a way that even remotely approaches what God wants.

                      The Bible is a book with an unreliable narrator and shifting rules that are interpreted in myriad ways.

                      .

                    • arcseconds

                      We call that civilization. We do not call that God.

                      I really can’t see why you’d even mention this. Did you somehow think I thought society was God, and thought everyone else thought so too?

                      It really doesn’t matter who’s doing the enforcing. A police state is a police state whether the authority is supernatural or mundane.

                      We could even drop God altogether from the discussion of how surveillance and interference affects freedom, but an omniscient and omnipresent and activist God is the ultimate police state, so it’s a useful limiting case. A God that also enforces only good things is useful to show how even a benevolent police state that never makes mistakes is repressive. It’s probably also worth making it clear that a discussion on surveillance and interference has theological implications.

                      The War on Drugs/War on Crime does not seem to have much of an effect of decreasing these activities.

                      It’s not rigorous, total and complete, is it? If the law enforcement officials always knew where all the heroin was at all times and reliably intercepted it and shot the carriers as soon as it entered the country’s borders, people would stop smuggling it pretty quickly.

                      You appear to claim that freedom is not freedom, when there are strong penalties/disincentives.

                      Well, that’s usually what people think, isn’t it? We even have the expression ‘was someone holding a gun to your head?’ to indicate the difference between a coerced action and a free one.

                      But actually, as I said earlier, I think there’s autonomy even here. In principle you could always opt to get shot or take eternal damnation on the chin.

                      However, it certainly limits your freedom quite a bit to have such threats, doesn’t it? Being shot especially so, as those plans you had for tomorrow kind of go out the window. Eternal damnation at the end out your life at least means you can sin today, but still go to the movies tomorrow. On the other hand, if you like both chess and cards, but you know cards will eternally damn you, then you’ll probably play chess. Ruling out playing cards with a massive threat still seems like an imposition on freedom to me.

                      What could be a stronger disincentive than damnation?

                      That’s an interesting question, particularly as people say they believe in Hell (and God, and that they know what God wants) but still do bad things, even by their own lights.

                      There’s a few possibilities here:

                      1) they actually have made a rational decision that eternal damnation is the preferable option.

                      2) they are discounting future utility, either rationally or irrationally.

                      3) they don’t really believe in Hell.
                      (Not really believing in things one thinks one believes in is actually fairly common)

                      4) they don’t really believe their actions will damn them.

                      5) they are acting irrationally, just like an alcoholic who knows the next drink will result in her ruin, but can’t help herself.

                      I could expand on any of these points if you’re interested.

                      as for what could be a bigger disincentive, well, given that people in fact discount future utility, especially unseen, uncertain future utility, whether or not you think this is rational, a bigger disincentive could be something horrible that they know for sure will happen right now. Shoot one of their friends so they know you mean business, then tell them you’ll shoot them if you don’t do as you say. I reckon that’d override most people’s belief in the possibility of Hell at the end of their life.

                      As for Pascal’s wager,if you use the normal mathematical treatment of infinity along with the normal way of calculating expected utility, it doesn’t matter what promise of eternal reward you act on, just so long as you pick one you think has a non-zero probability. You don’t even need to pick the one that strikes you as the most likely: they all have infinite expected utility.

                      However, intuitively it seems you should go for the most likely option, perhaps also factoring the relative costs. So there’s something funny about the way the expected returns are calculated here, I reckon.

                      If Genesis has an unreliable narrator, shifting rules, and is heavily interpretation-dependent, but nevertheless involves an unfair God involved in an incoherent story, I find it even more difficult to see why you think it is important in this discussion. How does it affect what we consider to be free will? I don’t think anything I’ve said has any real dependence on Genesis at all.

                    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

                      arcseconds,

                      You’re making sense. Now look at what you originally wrote.

                      Perhaps we wouldn’t resent it. But freedom, and therefore also goodness, would be impossible in a world where God was evident everywhere.

                      If Mother is always watching, you won’t steal the cookies from the cookie jar, no matter how venal you are.

                      We would become little better than pets.

                      Why would a just God create people, without any understanding of good and evil, and punish them for finding out what the rules are?

                      It would be a horrible way to raise children. Still, many people do follow this method. X is bad. Never do X.

                      It is much better to explain what X is and why X is bad, than to be told to Just say No.

                      Freedom does require an understanding of the rules, otherwise we might as well be responding to random stimuli.

                      B.F. Skinner did set up experiments to see how animals would respond to semi-random stimuli and was able to generate superstition. We seem to have done the same with the semi-random stimuli of the universe.

                      -

                      As for Pascal’s wager,if you use the normal mathematical treatment of infinity along with the normal way of calculating expected utility, it doesn’t matter what promise of eternal reward you act on, just so long as you pick one you think has a non-zero probability. You don’t even need to pick the one that strikes you as the most likely: they all have infinite expected utility.

                      If there are thousands of possible Gods , or interpretations of Gods, and some of them are the kind of Gods that punish refusal to believe, then there are likely to be many more negative outcomes, than positive outcomes. Just picking the wrong one may result in damnation.

                      Also, a conservative God may punish you for taking a liberal approach and not being strict enough in punishing others. Or the conservative God may only want you to control your own behavior and will punish you for punishing others.

                      A liberal God may punish you for punishing others.

                      Some of these will not meet the criteria for damnation, since we are discussing the myriad beliefs out there and few seem to have this interpretation.

                      If just 1% of the Gods will punish you for choosing the wrong God, or for worshiping too little or too much, then you have just a 1% chance of a bad outcome and things look pretty good for you and Pascal. Some of the expected utility is positive, while others are negative.

                      If a smaller percentage will reward you for picking the right God and worshiping in just the right way, then this is a negative sum game. There is negative expected utility.

                      Do we have enough information to know the ratio of positive to negative?

                      An Emo Phillips joke animated (an updating of Jonathan Swift, who lived just a bit after Blaise Pascal) –

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0zIv2I37UU

                      We do not know how many Gods there are. The Bible says that there are other Gods in some places and that there are not other Gods in other places. Clearly, we cannot trust the Bible to provide accurate information to make this decision. The many Biblical interpretations of God appear to be more concerned about belief in the right God than in anything else.

                      Just looking at the many possible interpretations of the God of the Bible, it appears that the odds against picking the right God (and having it matter) are greater than the odds in favor of picking the right God (and having it matter).

                      It is only by adding Gods that do not punish disbelief that the odds improve.

                      In other words, the less likely it is that any interpretation of the God of the Bible is real, the less likely that there is a bad outcome. That similarly diminishes the odds of a positive outcome.

                      It is playing a metaphysical game of Russian roulette with a gun with thousands of chambers and an unknown number of rounds (forms of hell) in the chambers and only extremely rarely receiving any reward (forms of heaven) for surviving the game.

                      It appears to be a negative sum game.

                      -

                      We even have the expression ‘was someone holding a gun to your head?’ to indicate the difference between a coerced action and a free one.

                      This may be why so many people do not understand what coercion is.

                      The gun to your head cliche is not one I would use, because it is a silly, melodramatic, and interferes with communication. As with Pascal’s wager, it implies a lot that is assumed, but should not be assumed.

                      -

                      I don’t think anything I’ve said has any real dependence on Genesis at all.

                      Back to what you originally wrote –

                      Perhaps we wouldn’t resent it. But freedom, and therefore also goodness, would be impossible in a world where God was evident everywhere.

                      And yet Lucifer and a third of the angels (maybe not pets) are supposed to have lived in that world and rebelled against a God who was evident everywhere.

                      Adam and Eve (more like pets) are supposed to have lived in that world and disobeyed a God who was evident everywhere.

                      They were free to disobey and even rebel.

                      .

                    • arcseconds

                      I know what I originally wrote, and I think it’s entirely consistent with everything I wrote after that.

                      Why would a just God create people, without any understanding of good and evil, and punish them for finding out what the rules are?

                      You quote me, and then say this directly afterwards. We seem to be back to Genesis again!

                      What is it with you and Genesis? You think it’s unreliable, incoherent, unfair and vastly open to interpretation. I don’t think it has very much relevance to anything I’ve said, and you can’t give me a clear reason why you think it has. So why are we even discussing it?

                      Is it some kind of compulsion, that if someone mentions God and freedom in the same sentence, you cannot help but harangue them continually with questions about Genesis?

                      I have no idea why a just God would do that. It doesn’t strike me as what I would consider just.

                      And yet Lucifer and a third of the angels (maybe not pets) are supposed to have lived in that world and rebelled against a God who was evident everywhere.

                      Again, I’m struggling to see the relevance of this. Is this supposed to be proof against my claim that an evident God who prevents harm and punishes transgressions with ruthless efficiency prevents people from making moral decisions?

                      However, since you asked, it’s not clear in those narratives that God is really conceived of as being omniscient and omnipotent. On the face of it, there are things God doesn’t know, and there are things that God doesn’t want to happen that nevertheless happen. It’s hard to make sense of a war actually occurring at all when one side is omnipotent.

                      At any rate, if he is supposed to be omnipotent and omniscient, he’s clearly not making use of that to prevent bad things from happening.

                      Also, why does Lucifer even try to start a war against an omnipotent entity? Either he doesn’t think God is omnipotent (so either God isn’t in fact omnipotent, or Lucifer is deluded), he thinks God is omnipotent but playing according to rules that might still let Lucifer win, or he knows his actions are futile and is doing it for some other reason. I’ve already suggested that one could opt to disobey God and accept the eternal punishment. There are also Sufi myths to the effect that Iblis is deliberately carrying out God’s plan.

                      It’s also quite possible that these narratives aren’t actually coherent when examined closely.

                    • arcseconds

                      Understanding free will is not to be a part of a discussion of free will.

                      Please explain what limitations you require on a discussion of free will, so that I do not bring up topics that displease you.

                      See, more drama. You’ve interpreted a simple request for clarification as me laying down laws for discussion!

                      I’m not trying to stop you bringing up whatever you like. I would just like to understand what relevance it has to the discussion at hand.

                      You’re also welcome to bring up topics at random for all I care, but it would help me following what you’re getting at if you’d tell me that they’re random divergences.

                      I’m a bit surprised you think that Genesis helps us understand free will, as you don’t seem to have a particularly high opinion of Genesis.

                      But OK. What can we learn about free will from Genesis?

                    • stuart32

                      Thanks, arcseconds. Perhaps I’m in need of an apologist myself:)

              • TomS

                ISTM that any excuseexplanation for why things have to have the “appearance” of age would apply equally well to explain why Scripture had to be written with the “appearance” of saying that things do not have great age.

                Perhaps it is impossible to create a well-functioning universe except with great age (or, at least, the appearance of great age) – with heavens properly reflecting the glory of God, etc. But also, perhaps it is impossible to create a Scriptural account which meets the demands of a literalist audience on scientific matters.

  • dangjin

    A couple buys a brand new table when they first get married. Over the years they have 4 children. One day they invite people over to their house who admire the table. When the couple state that they have only had the table for 10 years, the people doubt and say, ‘no it can’t be. it looks like it is 100 years old.’

    The couple who bought the table would know the exact age, not those visitors who go by observation and supposed evidence.

    The only people placing age on the earth are those who do not believe God and can’t believe that so much has happened in such a short time. The only people who are saying there is obvious evidence in nature are those who do not believe God and place the supposed age there themselves.

    They do not know if they got it right but they will fight to the death all those who try and correct them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Except that one can actually test many things to determine their date. And so a more relevant example of young-earth creationism is of people who insist that their car is brand new and try to sell it, but an inspection shows that beneath the facade it is worn out.

      Perhaps I should have said that young-earth creationists make God out to be a forger – dipping paper into tea to try to make it look old. Or maybe hoaxer is a better term, since the perpetrator of a hoax wants people to fall for it, and then to condemn them for having done so.

      And of course, this false God is made in the very image of young-earth creationists’ charlatans themselves.

    • arcseconds

      A couple buys what they think is a brand-new table, complete with a booklet from the seller about how brand-new it is. Not knowing anything about tables, they believe the booklet, and proudly tell everyone about their new table.

      To anyone who knows anything about tables it’s obvious that the table is very old. It’s an old style of table, the wood isn’t even milled any more, and one of the legs has been replaced, again with wood that was once common and difficult to find nowadays.

      There’s a layer of poorly-applied new varnish on the top, that’s all.

      The kids do scuff the varnish, revealing all the old layers of previous varnishings and other damage and work underneath. This makes it even more obvious. But the couple don’t really look at the table, they insist all the wear has been caused by the kids, and continue to point to the booklet whenever anyone raises their eyebrows about this.

      They don’t know how old the table is, but this has been going on for so long now that even if they were to start looking at the table with open eyes, it would be highly embarrassing to admit they were wrong all along,

      In the meantime, all of the kids grow up, and all of them except one understand the table is old. That one keeps turning up to furniture appraisers yelling about how useless they all are. She’s also gotten incredibly paranoid and defensive, so she’s apt to claim people are trying to kill her to keep quiet about the table and the corrupt table industry, even though the worst that’s ever happened is a security guard showed her the door when she was especially disruptive.

      She also comes up with strained analogies about how not believing table owners and booklets from furniture outlets is like not believing in Jesus.

      All this only goes to show that if you’re clever enough, you can come up with an analogy to ‘prove’ anything.

    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

      dangjin,

      A couple buys a brand new table when they first get married. Over the years they have 4 children. One day they invite people over to their house who admire the table. When the couple state that they have only had the table for 10 years, the people doubt and say, ‘no it can’t be. it looks like it is 100 years old.’

      The people are clearly not atheists.

      Atheists would examine the table to determine its true age, not create some baseless superstition that contradicts reality.

      There are objective measures of age.

      The Bible, and the derivative calculations of various preachers, are not objective.

      If the Bible were objective, there would not be so much disagreement among Christians about what is described in the Bible.

      The reasonable conclusion is that some God(s) worth worshiping would find a way of communicating in a way that approaches competence.

      God can create the world, but not communicate?

      You appear to worship the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

      .

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      The couple who bought the table would know the exact age

      How? They would know when they bought it. They’d have to trust someone else’s claim for when it was made. And if they had reason to doubt that claim (for example, everyone with relevant skills thought it was antique), then they’d be idiots to keep insisting it was 10 years old because it was sold to them as new. This happens with antiques *all the time*, people lie about the age of the table. So much so that any furniture dealer who wants to stay in business, never trusts the word of the person selling them the table, but looks at the actual piece for evidence of its actual age.

      The problem dangjin, is you’ve been sold lies. Lies about the age of the earth, and lies that God wants you to believe the lies about the age of the earth. And rather than checking for yourself, you revel in your lies and want to share them with others.

      • TomS

        And, to carry on with the analogy, the couple admits that they now know that the table is plywood, not solid oak, as they were told when they got the table. (Just as today’s YECs now admit that the Earth is in motion around the Sun, contrary to what everybody always had thought that the Bible said.) Sometimes, people are willing to change their minds when confronted with the evidence.

  • captain obvious

    God loves lies:

    Exodus 1:18-20
    And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto
    them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men-children
    alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women
    are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered
    ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the
    midwives.

    Joshua 2:4-6
    And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said
    thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it
    came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark
    that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue
    after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought
    them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of
    flax.

    1 Samuel 21:2
    David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath
    commanded me a
    business…. (But David was an enemy of King Saul, and was not on
    the king’s business. We know that God approved of this lie, since
    1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything David did, with the single exception of the matter of Uriah.)

    1 Kings 22:21-22
    And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and
    said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit
    in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade
    him and prevail also; go forth and do so.

    2 Kings 8:10
    And Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, Thou mayest
    certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall
    surely die.

    John 7:8-10
    [Jesus said] Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast. …
    But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

    James 2:25
    Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she
    had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?.

    Tobit 5:17-18
    Raphael the angel answered … I am Azarias.

    • TomS

      Calling them “lies”, things like the (supposedly) false appearance of a history to things at their beginning (or of “deep time” today), is an anthropomorphism. If we are willing to allow God to do other things like killing people or taking their property without calling that “murder” or “theft”, then why insist upon calling it a “lie” when God put the stars in the firmament they were immediately visible even though they were light-years distant? (Or trees with fruit growing on them, etc., etc.) God is not bound by mere human standards.

      I hasten to make it clear that this does not represent my opinion.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    “t. It doesn’t claim to be the words of God or inerrant, and so there is
    no actual issue when it turns out that the Biblical authors didn’t know
    modern science – except for some theologies which ought to conform to
    such Biblical data, rather than trying to get the Bible to fit their
    preconceptions about what it ought to be.”

    Of course the same can be said when the Bible errs morally:

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/william-lane-craig-and-divine-genocides/

    Cheers.

  • TomS

    A recent addition to the Wikipedia article on “Omphalos hypothesis” says:

    “The complaint of deception has been answered by Rabbi Moshe Meiselman by pointing out that God revealed the true age of the universe. Therefore, only those who are committed to ignoring revelation are in danger of being deceived. Fault for that prejudice can hardly be placed at God’s door. Seehttp://www.dovidgottlieb.com/thoughts/2006/07/brief-thoughts-on-torah-and-science.html and his new book Torah, Chazal and Science.”

    I have no comment on this, and I haven’t yet looked at the web site or the book.
    (I suspect that this addition to Wikipedia will rapidly disappear.)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The Omphalos Argument. It didn’t fly when Gosse first proposed it in Victorian times, and it doesn’t fly now.


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