Among Creationists

What happens to a mathematician or science-type who decides out of curiosity to spend gobs of time — weekends, conferences, reading time — with the creationists? Their number, as the recent Gallup poll indicated (though this book refines those numbers a bit), is not small. What happens when you spend time with creationists? Jason Rosenhouse, a professional mathematician, did just that and wrote up a book about it. His book is called Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line (Oxford Univ Press, 2012). It’s a good read; it’s an alarming read at times; it’s an attempt at comprehending creationists; it’s by an atheist, an evolutionist, and someone who has a hobby of wondering what makes creationists tick. He’s deeply bothered by the approach — and Rosenhouse’s opening encounters are illustrated by this cartoon to the right.

The book opens with some Vignettes and then turns to reports about some conferences: the Creation Mega-Conference at Lynchburg, the Darwin vs. Design Conference in Knoxville, the Creation Museum, and the 6th International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh.

Creationism has many meanings, and we’ll get to his definition next post, but in general it refers to people who believe science conforms to a kind of reading of Genesis 1-2 (traditional, literal, etc). What bothers you most about this approach? Do you think his sketch is typical? What are your experiences with the creationists? How pervasive is this approach in home-schooling? Do you think there is a disposition against the scientific facts here?

We’ll not understand ourselves well until we understand what outsiders encounter; so whether you are a Young Earth Creationist or a creationary evolutionist (theistic evolution) … if you believe the Bible as God’s Word, then this book is worth reading. Why? We might call it mirror reading of the evangelical science-faith conversation.

In 2000 Rosenhouse attended a religious home-schoolers conference on education, and one of his first impressions: “from their perspective, evangelical Christianity was a tiny island of righteousness adrift in a sea of secular evil” (3-4). They were, in effect, in a “war zone” (4). He encountered Ken Ham who made some forays into mathematical theories of probability and information, Rosenhouse’s field for his PhD and academic work. Rosenhouse: “his arguments ran afoul of certain basic facts” (4). So he had a conversation with Ham that also went afoul, including Rosenhouse reporting that Ham called him “arrogant.” Rosenhouse: “I replied that arrogance was standing on a stage pretending to know something about science” (4).

Rosenhouse is irritated when conservative Christians lecture publicly about public school and secularism indoctrinating students.  He also observes that “creationism’s most notable failures have come in the courtroom and the seminar hall” (5) — why? In those settings what matters is where the evidence takes us. He contends creationism devotes attention to judges and professors because those are the settings it struggles to keep up.

He tells of a long conversation at a subway with an adult woman and three teenagers. He also attended an evening with Luis Palau, and then the Dartmouth student newspaper had a big battle over these issues … and Rosenhouse was snagged into the debate. Here are some elements of the creationists game that bother him:

1. Evolution is “ridiculous” and there is “no evidence” for it and “massive, irrefutable evidence” for YECreationism — leading to this: “Evolution… was not even about science at all. It was about promoting the religion of secular humanism” (18). In other words, science is caught up into (colonized by) another narrative about belief vs. unbelief.

2. Scientists, most of them, have gotten it completely wrong. “It is one thing to suggest that the scientists are wrong, but it is quite another to suggest that they are stupid or have overlooked simple errors” (18). As a professor, I’d like to make a simple but penetrating point: young scholars feast on making their mark by offering some contribution to knowledge; if the basics of evolution were wrong, the young scholars would feast on it because they could make their contribution. Don’t forget that: this stuff is being checked day in and day out.

Rosenhouse has problems with religion. He is an atheist, which doesn’t mean he is “metaphysically certain there is no God” or that he wallows in nihilism or moral relativism (standard observations among the creationists because the slippery slope argument is used so often). What are his problems?

1. It is very difficult to square evolution with a Christian view of the world.

2. Science has not found any evidence of an intelligent designer.

3. He believes in a kind of knowledge based on evidence and only on evidence, which means he’s got the typical scientific, mathematical skeptical approach.

This all means he wonders what religious folks know that he can’t find access to. Other issues:

1. The cultural and social dimensions, fine; ritual and tradition, fine; disposition toward nature, fine.

2. Problems: adherence to doctrine; the Bible as the Word of God and he sees little different in the Bible than other sources; how can religion justify its knowledge? The ease with with people speak of God; God’s foreknowledge and human free will; explaining things with God leads to problems with God. The moral argument doesn’t work: not all believers are good; some nonbelievers are good; some societies that pervasively are nonbelieving are happier and have more goodness.

But the smart people who believe make him pause; he wants to comprehend this stuff.

Thus, his confession: “Atheism just makes the fewest demands on my credulity” (24).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Paul W

    My wife and I homeschool our son. In other words my wife does all the actual work. I was asking her just the other day about trends in homeschooling. In our little circle of homeschool families none (to our knowledge) are creationist. From my wife’s perspective those homeschoolers in our area who emphasize science and the arts are not coming from the sort of religious perspective that would endorse creationism.

  • http://Whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    I’m a theistic evolutionist, but I find much about young earth creationism admirable. The big idea is that IF God said it happened this way, then YECs believe that it did – and there is much to commend about that kind of uncompromising, childlike faith. I don’t agree that God said it happened that way; I don’t believe the texts should be read that way; but if I did, I would be a young earth creationist, even if the scientific consensus strongly disagreed. I’d be interested to know if other readers agree on this: if we were persuaded the Bible taught YEC, would we become YECs, I wonder? Sounds like an interesting book.

  • http://www.openhousechurch.ca Phil Niemi

    @ Andrew #2,

    I agree in that if I believed that was clearly what the bible taught, that I would be YEC, however, does that then infer that YEC needs to use poor pseudo-science to support scripture and their understanding of it? The difficulty as a pastor and youth pastor that I’ve had has been with misrepresentations of science and scientific method to prove YEC through attacking everything from carbon dating, thermodynamics to dino tracks with humans.

  • phil_style

    “explaining things with God leads to problems with God”

    This is such a great insight!
    I’ve always found that as soon as I start to “define” what God might or might not be, it ends up (more often than not) resulting in a contradiction with another descriptor. When God is not observable or measurable, how can we have a description of God? (i.e. a theology).

    All we are left with is an example to imitate (Jesus) and the glimmering hope of God.

  • Brian Wallace

    My biggest problem with Young Earth Creationists is that they completely miss the point – the bible tells us WHO created – not how. When we confuse our sources and their intent – in either direction (using scientific evidence as an argument against faith and vice versa) we make a grave error. It’s on par with arguing that the three little pigs is a historical piece of work since it teaches something that is true. Why is it that we are ok with Jesus using parables but when we come across parables referencing creation that clearly teach theological truths (There is one God, this God created everything and gave it order, God created human beings uniquely in God’s own image and called them to be his covenant partners) we frantically think they need to be historical when from the style they are written it’s plain that they were never intended to be as such.

    Finally, young earth creationists have to say that either (1) Scientific methods are bogus (2) God made the world to appear older than it is. Well, no one in practice believes #1 because they drink tap water, take ibuprofen, and drive a car (after all, how can you trust Newton’s theories that your brakes will work?). That leaves #2, which means that God intentionally wanted to deceive us regarding the age of the universe. Seriously?

    God gave us two books – the book of his word that answers the who and why questions, and the book of his works that lets us discover the how. Faith and Scientific are complementary perspectives that help us to see and fully comprehend God’s creation.

  • http://www.doulos.at Wolf Paul

    @Brian: Well no, (2) does not mean that God wanted to deceive us. If he wanted to create an adult human being, that adult human being by necessity had an appearance of age, and it has nothing to do with wanting to deceive. The same applies elsewhere. We should not “debunk” YEC with bogus arguments, either.

    We need to realize that this is all an action-reaction game, and that neither “side” is innocent. If some scientists hadn’t overstated what evolution implies for religion and faith, alarmed believers would not have been so tempted to overstate what taking the Bible seriously means and what form it must take.

    The other problem, as far as I can see, is that the YEC camp argue from the very same rationalistic mindset, with the same rationalistic notion of truth=mere fact, as the evolutionists (i.e those who use evolution as a piece of anti-faith propaganda). There are places where the Bible argues for this kind of understanding (i.e. If Christ was not raised …), but for the most part it does not, and I don’t buy that if Genesis 1+2 is not to be taken literally in modern sense, then we can throw out the rest of the Bible as well.

  • Gregory Du Bois

    Having been a self described scientific atheist as a teen, I say this with all humility and respect for more learned scientists, my first doubts about the adequacy of science to explain everything arose as I was studying science in college. It seemed to me that the world is just too complicated and beautiful to be an accident. That complexity was for me sufficient evidence to suggest a designer. It was not proof. I didn’t have to start believing in God. But I realized that it was easier to believe God did it than to believe it just happened. So design theory is the simpler theory and explains everything much more efficiently. Then the role of science in my view is not nullified by the answer, “God did it.” The glory of science is to figure out and explain HOW God did it. I came to that conclusion long before I ever heard of YEC. This means my first step in was to become a theistic evolutionist and that is pretty much where I have remained.

    But I keep an open mind toward YEC because it seems possible. I am drawn to YEC because of its high level respect for the Bible. I have some degree of skepticism about the viability of young scientists ending up with a career if they dare to “feast on what is wrong with evolution.” The academic world is not void of politics and ambitious career advancement maneuvering. My world view includes the influence of sin and satan in keeping the worldly ones blind to their predicament and therefore unable to be as objective in scientific endeavor as they would like to think they are. Nevertheless, I try to be very careful not to take sides with any definitive opinion. So I would love to see where a conversation with the author of the book would take us.

  • http://www.nature.com Agnikan

    IF the Bible taught that we should do x (where x is an evil act), should we do x?

    To say that “IF the Bible taught YEC, then we should believe in YEC” seems to put the cart (the Bible) before the the horse (the Holy Spirit).

  • Scot Miller

    If being a biblicist or being a “biblical Christian” means that one would choose the Biblical evidence over non-biblical evidence, then I’m not a “biblical Christian.” Let’s say that there’s some way to conclusively establish that the biblical writers and the original audience believed that creation was a fact that took place over the course of 6 24-hour days in the relatively recent past (4-5000 years ago). Would that trump the observational evidence from science that the universe is billions of years old and that live evolved over hundreds of thousands of years? Not for me. I prefer to follow the advice of Meister Eckhart, who said that if he had a choice between believing the truth and believing God, he would always take truth over God. God is always where the truth is, but God is not always where “God” is. Not everything that claims to be from God is really from God, so there is nothing admirable about believing in God if that means rejecting scientifically discovered truth. There is nothing admirable about a faith with requires someone to disengage her mind and reject scientific thinking.

  • http://aprilkarli.com AprilK

    How pervasive is this approach in homeschooling? My children attend a University Model School which is a private, Christian, classical school blends of classroom and homeschooling. The school determines the curriculum and the kids attend class 2 days/week. The books we use for science are called Apologia. Last year’s studies were zoology or “Land Animals of the 6th Day.” In this book was an illustration of Noah taking dinosaurs on the ark, if that tells you anything.

    The first three chapters of this book were mostly quoting Scripture. I read the book aloud to my then 4th and 1st grader on our homeschool days. On the third day of mostly Bible verses in the science book my oldest daughter let out a loud sigh and said, “Bible again?! I thought we were going to learn science!”

    She also asked, “We know how long a day is by when the sun rises and sets. And the sun wasn’t created until the third day. So, where did the first two days come from?”

    She already understands the scientific method better than the writers of her science book do! I totally agree with the cartoon. The creationist writers of the book have their conclusion and find evidence to support it rather than the other way around. The book is defensive and grasps at straws to “prove” creationism.

  • http://www.knowinginpart.wordpress.com Thomas

    If the Bible clearly taught YECism, then I may have had to reject Christianity when I started researching the basis for evolution/old earth. Thank God for people like Falk and Collins who said otherwise. The question is, “What is TRUE?” When young people are in fact taught that it is impossible to have any other view than a literalist approach to Genesis 1-11 and when they encounter the evidence for evolution/old earth, many lose their faith.

  • http://wallybarthman.wordpress.com/ Brian Wallace

    @Wolf-

    My argument is not bogus. What is the necessity of making creation appear older than it really is other than to deceive us? I’m specifically referencing dating methods that wouldn’t work on a living object to start with. To say that (1) carbon dating is accurate within given tolerances and precisions and (2) therefore God made the world to look older than it is make God a deceiver.

  • phil_style

    @Brian.

    Assuming YEC (which I do not)… if you were to examine a cave on the 6th day of creation would there be lime inside it (limestone takes between thousands and millions of years to form? Would there be soil in which the plants were growing (soil takes weeks to form from decomposing bio-matter)? Would the sea be salty (the seas take thousands of years to become saline)? Would there have been oxygen in the air (millions of years to get to life supporting levels)?

    If the answer to either of the above is “yes” then the “appearance of age = deception” argument falls apart.

  • Charles

    I think he’s either gotten a different version of “the moral argument” than I have or he’s misunderstood it (based on the objections summarized).

  • Bev Mitchell

    Gregory #7
    You say,
    ” The glory of science is to figure out and explain HOW God did it”

    I follow you, but wonder if it is not better to say that, from a believer’s perspective, science is trying to figure out WHAT God has done (continues to do) and definitely not HOW. We had a good round on this last week and many seem comfortable with the idea that we have to be willing (even scientists :) to leave a very large space between our knowledge of what? and how? when it comes to God. This is not nit picking. It’s probably failure to clarify points like this that lead us into all sorts of conflict and confusion.

    For all:

    Have a look at Roger Olson’s piece on inerrancy and the discussion there today. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/  As Olson is attempting to establish, some concepts are of no use whatsoever because of their plasticity.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Scott #9

    Well said! We have to be humble with our ideas of God. He reveals himself (that’s our only hope) but we also continually invent him, or things about him, that stand in need of correction. If circles and their puffed up cousins spheres thought about God, their theology would almost certainly include a big role for ‘pi”.

  • AHH

    A good complementary study of creationism, not by a mathematician but by an anthropologist studying it as a social phenomenon, is Christopher Toumey’s God’s Own Scientists.
    Here is a somewhat old review of that book that gives the gist of it:
    http://steamdoc.s5.com/writings/toumey94.html

    Interesting line at the end of Scot’s review:
    But the smart people who believe make him pause; he wants to comprehend this stuff.
    For any who would question the value of Francis Collins, Biologos, RJS, the ASA, etc., here it is in a nutshell — removing the tremendous stumbling blocks set up by those (both “creationists” and many atheists) who pit science and faith as enemies, so that this author and other scientifically literate people might then be able consider Jesus without feeling like following Jesus requires them to turn off their brains.

  • holdon

    “Rosenhouse: “his arguments ran afoul of certain basic facts”

    If he really is a mathematician I would like to hear from him what the probabilities are to mutate from amoeba to humans. Maybe he can get us a clear answer. Numbers don’t lie and God doesn’t lie, so we have a match?

  • http://www.beyondcreationscience.com/ Norman

    YEC is not the only problem outsiders have with Believers. There is also a disconnect with the various end time speculation that is built upon the same hermeneutic principles that YEC employ to establish their ideas about earths origins. Many really intelligent scientifically trained and skeptical minded believers have recognized that YEC and its literalizing of Genesis is a problem and they have set about correcting the problems by recognizing it requires a hermeneutic solution. However they set aside everything they have learned about ANE and apocalyptic literature when it gets to eschatology and turn around and embrace the same applications that they have just disproved. We should recognize that the Garden portrayal is simply an ANE Hebrew construct to help deliver a message in a stylized manner. Yet when we get to Revelation or other NT authors who employ or refer to this apocalyptic language to describe the messianic message of Christ we bite on the hook of the literal hermeneutic just like the YEC do in Genesis all over again. It seems we haven’t really learned biblical investigative principles as well as we should.

    Let me provide a recent example; I’m going to use an exchange with RJS as an example from a brief encounter last week.
    RJS has concerns with what she perceives as my dangerous insights concerning eschatology and made this observation. “There is clearly evil yet at work in our world – how is this evil ultimately conquered?”

    You see YEC have a solution for this as they take Genesis as literal about a pristine Garden that was in place that excluded “evil and death” before a literal physical transformation of earth. However I’m sure RJS rejects this position because she is a keen scientist and understands the evidence doesn’t support such an idea. Now again the YEC and the end time literalist realize that the messianic fulfillment calls for a reinstatement of the Garden and so naturally they are quite comfortable with a literal reading of apocalyptic literature in Revelation when it portrays a Garden existence paradise again. However the question begs why all of a sudden RJS (and others like N. T. Wright, so she’s in good company) suddenly drop their keen scientific minds and acquired Hermenutic skills and rejoins the YEC in welcoming a physical transformation of planet earth some day in the future. Especially when it reinstates what they previously deny in the origins story?

    My observation is because they typically can’t rely on their science to refute the possibility of something in the future. However most scientist would recognize that since the physical earth has been in its present state for 4.5 billion years that we have no basis to declare God is going to change His rules down the line. For the YEC there is no problem but for scientifically trained people it should cause them to pause and start the investigation into Revelation and see if the same principles of biblical interpretation that are working so well in regard to Genesis can also be employed to investigate eschatology. You do have some but most scientist are more interested in Genesis than they are in Revelation because they can sink their teeth into it and just let sleeping dogs lie in Revelation because how do you disprove the future. Let’s go along to get along is the idea and frankly who can blame them as they take enough heat and grief concerning their ideas in Genesis and who needs the added grief of messing with all the various millennial groups out there.

    Until scientists learn to present the scriptures more consistently and coherently to their agnostic scientist friend they will tend to be undermined by some of the perceived inconsistencies. It’s hard enough to lay out why the Bible should be accepted when other religious positions are denied but to have ideas that tag along that will cause pause for truth seeking agonistics and make them wonder about our commitment to sound reasoning we will continue to have difficulty.

    I’ll not leave you wondering about what the solution to evil is though. The biblical story is much more robust about our sins when we grasp its message than we tend to believe. Christ did not fail in that point and that discussion is deep and wide and calls for due diligence for the investigator just as Genesis requires. The answers are there but don’t think for a minute that Christ failed to finish His work. That is a misguided myth and undercuts the Good News Gospel message.

  • phil_style

    @ Holdon, “If he really is a mathematician I would like to hear from him what the probabilities are to mutate from amoeba to humans”

    Similar to the probability that the stone I took from the beach in Greece was the stone that I took from the beach in Greece – the level of contingency is about the same.
    All things are cumulatively improbable.

  • Jen

    I like the mystery. I believe God did it. Not sure how. The more science uncovers, the more awe I have for what God did in creation. It’s all so cool. From the vastness of the universe, to the tiniest nutrino, to the balance of a million details that allows life as we know it to exist, to the mystery of dark matter, it’s all so cool. My God is awesome.

  • phil_style

    @Holdon #20
    “If he really is a mathematician I would like to hear from him what the probabilities are to mutate from amoeba to humans.”
    and in addition, the amoeba never did, nor did it ever have to, “evolve into a human”. The “amoeba” just changed ever so slightly into something different, so that then it, and it’s progeny and mutate into something slightly different.

    It was not the amoeba that had to mutate into a human. It was just the last pre-human (almost human) that had to do it. I’m willing to bet that that last pre-human was almost indistinguishable from the current crop.

  • Tom

    So frustrating when characterizations are made that are just not true. I know it wasn’t the intent of the cartoon but it’s characterization of scientific method is not correct. “Here are the facts. What conclusions can we draw from them.” Sorry, but that’s just bad science.

  • phil_style

    @Tom, #23.

    Indeed!
    I recall something about hypothesis testing and falsification when I was studying!

  • Bev Mitchell

    Norman #19
    You suggest,
    “However most scientist would recognize that since the physical earth has been in its present state for 4.5 billion years that we have no basis to declare God is going to change His rules down the line.”

    No one is talking about any rule changes. What is clear to all is that our understanding of the current rules is woefully inadequate. We try, through science, to appreciate what God has done. We try through faithful, careful, thoughtful exegesis of Scripture to learn what God is saying to us, and that turns out to be overwhelmingly relational. We accept that the methods God uses for both material and relational matters, the how questions, are largely beyond us. Whatever God does with the earth in the future will, in all likelihood, be done using the same methods, the same rules, as he has used in the past and is using right now. This is not a problem for God. It only becomes a problem for us when we worship methods, and insist on knowing exactly how God does things. Does this make sense?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Scot Miller#9 nails exactly my problem with YECs, Calvinists and biblicists in general. They substitute their vision of god for god then create a world which god does not want.

    Tony Jones did and article this Meister Eckhart quote earlier this year and he gets it right.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2012/01/27/eckhart-and-apologetics/

    In defense of those who believe this, they don’t seem to understand that they are doing this, they know not what they are doing. And that’s where the true evil steps in because it is then up to the leaders to help with that. But the leaders are seemingly motivated to give the people what they want rather than search for truth!

    I wish I knew how to express this idea to someone who does not see it. Every time I discuss this with someone they seem totally unable to understand that they are doing this.

  • http://placesivebeen.wordpress.com Jonas Borntreger

    I hate this debate – I deplore it because I’m convinced that the genesis of the discussion is wrong from the get-go. I read science; I devour it voraciously. I could not conceive living on earth without an uber-compelling curiosity to know what makes our physical environment tick.

    I am also an Evangelical Christian. I believe that in the beginning “God created.” By faith I understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. Call me naive, but I can see absolutely nothing to be gained, either for this life or for the kingdom, by knowing precisely how or when that creation took place. I see absolutely no disagreement between my science and my religion. Furthermore, I have no desire to – believe it is wrong to – try and “square” my beliefs with my science. Our Mega/Creation Conferences; our Creation Museums; our blog debates, may serve a purpose for the already convinced among us, although, I sometimes even doubt that. They are not the biblically mandated tools for convincing the world.

    When we enter religion debates with scientists we are playing against an opponent with a stacked deck. It’s a battle, ordained by God himself, to keep us from winning in that arena. If we Christians are in a “war-zone” between faith and science then it is a war of our own choosing. If God deems to hide his purposes from the wise and prudent and reveal himself only through faith, then why should we attempt to break the code and reveal his purposes to anyone through science? My Evangelical Christian mission is solely in sowing the seed of the word into whatever soil, and those that come to him still come because they believe that he is, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    holdon#18,

    Maybe he can get us a clear answer. Numbers don’t lie and God doesn’t lie, so we have a match?

    Dang holdon, I am going to have to add that to my list of the greatest lies ever told

    I’m from the government and I am here to help
    The check is in the mail
    I better not say the third

    Now add holdon’s

    Mathematics does not lie.

    holdon, math don’t lie, but interpretation does. That is exactly the point of this discussion.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    A lot of people – especially thanks to things like the X-men movies – imagine that new species arise by a mutation bringing about a new species in one shot. (You see people ask questions like, “How unlikely is it that a new, compatible male and a female will happen to be born in the same place and time?”)

    For a much clearer picture of how species really do come about, look up ‘ring species’. For example, the Larus gulls are several subspecies where variants live in a ring around the Arctic. The Herring Gull in the U.K. can interbreed with the American Herring Gull, and the American can interbreed with the Vega Gull in Russia. And so on, until you come to the Lesser Black-Backed Gull in the Netherlands. It basically can’t breed with the Herring Gull. Hybrids are extremely rare and don’t seem to be fertile, like mules.

    So, is it a separate species? You could breed it with its relative to the East, and so on. But what if, say, the Vega Gull went extinct? Would you have separate species then?

    Now, imagine such variations happening across time instead of (or as well as) space, and you’ve got an idea how species actually do form, instead of the ’saltationist’ strawman that many have absorbed.

  • holdon

    “and in addition, the amoeba never did, nor did it ever have to, “evolve into a human””

    I didn’t say that. I said “mutate from amoeba to human” talking about a probability test. Perhaps better to call it generically “eukaryotes”. Does that sound better to you? And doesn’t evolution say that the human tree of life has eukaryotes at the root (or trunk)? Still would be nice to see a mathematical approximation of how many generations and mutations it would take to get from there to the “top of the tree”. Anybody?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Folks, I think phil_style#20 makes a point to holdon that I think is well worth consideration and a bit more elaboration. Clearly phil_style is comfortable with this concept, but I am pretty certain many are not.

    Let’s use his example of a stone. If I went to a beach, or woods or whatever, and grabbed a stone, and then asked the question, “what are the odds that I would have picked this stone?”, the answer would be that the odds are absolutely astronomical if you are a regular statistician.

    But then again, we are faced with the reality that I did indeed pick that stone in particular, regardless of the odds! Amazing, isn’t it? It defy’s all odds and seems incredibly unlikely, but there it is.

    That is the problem when we start talking about things that are, potentially, approaching infinity.

    We can ask the question, “what are the odds that I am existing on this planet at this time?” They are virtually non-existent! But here I am. How can that be?

    Well, first off, the obvious answer is that the only way you can be here to answer that question is to be here to answer the question. Regardless of the odds of it happening, you are here. And the only way you can ask the question is to be here. So in another way, the odds are 100%.

    I hope that I am not getting this wrong since it has been about 30 years since I was using Bayesian methods for computing probabilities, but there are statistical techniques, Bayesian inference being one of them, that takes knowledge into account when assigning probabilities.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_inference

    holdon’s implied contention that something incredibly improbably must be wrong is simply incorrect. Like phil_style’s stone, incredibly improbably events happen.

  • RJS

    holdon,

    Actually we look at history and determine how many generations it took – and then consider the question of mechanisms. What mechansims were/are at play to allow this? Some proposed mechanisms are improbable based on the amount of time it would take. Some Intelligent Design proponents suggest that the only effective mechanism is a designer.

    This gets to part of the point I was trying to make in my post last Tuesday.

    But it isn’t really relevant to the kind of creation argument under discussion here.

  • http://www.beyondcreationscience.com/ Norman

    Bev#25,

    Don’t you just love being able to discuss these issues freely. :)

    The problem is that we don’t have to dance around these issues when we apply ourselves more diligently to understanding biblical literature. I laid out the problems and our inconsistent approaches fairly forthright above. The Biblical story is much simpler than we want to present it. And yes people do want to change the physical rules of nature just like the YEC do. People think domestic and wild animals are going to lie down together again here on planet earth at some time. That type of literature has nothing to do with physical issues but is about covenant relational issues where Jews and Gentiles coexist together in peace through Christ (its simply eschatological literature written in poetic and apocalyptic styles that the Jews lived and breathed). We sometimes recognize that kind of literature but more often we take it literally and run askew with it.

    I couldn’t agree with you more that the issue is relational and that entails the way we walk with God and the manner in which we treat each other. Christ says those two commandments are the foundation of what the Law and the Prophets presented and that He was fulfilling. He chastised the Jews for wanting to follow him because he feed them physically. He lays it out clearly that righteousness comes from knowing Him and walking in His illustrations and teachings for us.

    Bev if you would like to see extensively where I’m coming from just click on my name and it will take you to a book that I was involved in helping two friends in their writing about 5 years ago. I wrote the prologue at the beginning of the book. So these are issues that I have been dealing with for years. Keep in mind I’m a TE and was only able to easily move into that realm because I begin to understand the biblical narrative much more clearly.

    I also agree that the same rules that God and Christ have already enacted are the ones that will be with us as long as this Good Earth provides for us. It may end sooner rather than later but we don’t know because we have only been here for just a drop in the bucket of time. Who knows if Super Volcanoes, Asteroids, Super Nova explosions or the myriad of other possibilities may remove us but we do know that the Sun and the Earth are not eternal like God. I trust He and Christ will take care of His faithful as has been promised. We just don’t know the details which cause much consternation so we conjure up eternal Hell and damnation for some from misreading the literature and a paradisiacal physical earth for the rest. I trust God to take care of us just like Job ended up having to do.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    1. It seems like the science and Christian faith discussion are issues we all continue to wrestle with at one level or another. I think Rosenhouse is right about some of the problems with the YEC view. I do find it strange that he rightly points out that the YEC group wrongly sets up the discussion of evolution (as disbelief) and creation (as belief) is a false dichotomy. But then he goes on to say things like science should prove God or God’s design somehow and it almost seems like for Rosenhouse, science takes the place of religion as a competing meta-narrative (if this is true and I say ‘if,’ then isn’t he doing the same thing he faults the YEC folks of doing?).

    2. Norman #9, I always appreciate your depth of study and challenge towards consistency, so I want to push back a little on something you said. Let me apply your argument to another issue and let’s see where it goes from there? You said the earth in its present state is 4.5 billion years and therefore there is no basis to declare God is going to change his rules down the line (I take it you are a preterist vs. RJS pre-millennial view of the future on this point?).

    It seems to me that one could use the same line of reasoning that after everything we know about the human body, we have no need to believe in a new resurrection body much less that Jesus actually rose from the dead in an actual resurrection body since God does not change the rules down the line (at least when it comes to our future resurrection bodies). And since I know how N. T. Wright does work out his new earth theology, I would be interested then in how you understand what the Bible teaches in regards to ‘the new heaven and new earth?’

    Thanks in advance – Chris

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    CGC, not sure how long till Norman responds, but my unsolicited 2 cents says that one is historical, the other not. The similarity is closer to genesis than the resurrection. Both are apocalyptic, the resurrection is not.

  • holdon

    “holdon’s implied contention that something incredibly improbably must be wrong is simply incorrect.”

    Now, where did I imply that? It seems that “my opponents” can’t just deal with what I said.

    I was just asking for a number. Once we have the calculation we may see if that fits.

    So how many generations did it take?

  • CGC

    Hi DRT,
    Okay, that partially works. I understand you saying the resurrection is historical, you mean Jesus resurrection? But the believers resurrection which is in the future is in the very apocalyptic genre that Norman is speaking about is it not?

  • Bev Mitchell

    Jonas #27 (and DRT #26 with Scott #9 and others, I think)
    “I hate this debate – I deplore it..” Some days, maybe most days I say Amen! and Amen! for the reasons you state, Jonas, and many more. Yet, as Norman suggests in #33, at least on this site, there is some hope of real progress. 

    Some of us here in Canada have a similar feeling about winter, and this feeling is well captured in the well known song by the Quebec singer Dominique Michel (no relation). If you want to vent your feelings along these lines in a humorous manner, check this rendition on You tube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuZd4Sao6so&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    With more love and humility, consider the lyrics of the MercyMe song, “I Can Only Imagine” at http://www.elyrics.net/read/m/mercyme-lyrics/i-can-only-imagine-lyrics.html

    Also along these lines, the following from Isaiah 26 re the dangers of arrogance. Scriptures like this keep us humble, help us avoid what in Spanish is called ‘soberbia, in French l’orgueil. It which reads so well in the Spanish NIV that I can’t resist quoting from that version:

    “Tenemos una cuidad fuerte.
    Como un muro, como un baluarte,
    Dios ha interpuesto su salvación.

    Abran las puertas, para que entre
    la nación justa que se mantiene fiel.
    Al del carácter firme
    lo guardarás en perfecta paz,
    porque en ti confía.

    Confíen en el SEÑOR para siempre,
    porque el SEÑOR es una Roca eterna.
    Él hace caer a los que habitan en lo alto
    y abate a la ciudad enaltecida:
    la abate hasta dejarla por el suelo,
    la derriba hasta hacerla morder el polvo.

    ¡Los débiles y los desvalidos
    la pisotean con sus propios pies!”

    Sorry for wandering all over. Just feeling artsy today I guess. 

    Blessings,
    Bev

  • CGC

    PS – One last thought on genre, I don’t understand why Norman would think that RJS or N. T. Wright or I might add even Scot Mcknight do not read apocalyptic literature as symbols and types of what is to come? Somehow the time element, past or present gets translated into literal or symbolic? I just wonder if there was not a subtle switch here in the argument that Norman originally gave?

  • CGC

    PSS – I meant to say, “Somehow the time element, past and *future* gets translated . . . “

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    CGC, sorry, yes, I was referring to jesus’ resurrection.

    The one in the future is, in my view, best encapsulated by the bodily resurrection, though I am pretty certain it won’t actually be or look in a way that most think about it. I view that as having corporeality, but that’s as far as I am willing to sooth say. Bodily resurrection, well, I think that contains the idea as well as anything at this point in time.

    Likewise, I think that is the same logic in genesis. At that time, that language captured the message was well as any could capture it.

  • RJS

    holdon,

    As I said – we know how many generations it took (approximately), that is history – what we don’t know is the precise mechanism. Any calculation has to have a mechanism.

    I used an example for this back when I posted on Stephen Meyers’ Signature in the Cell.

    Proteins have to fold into a precise three dimensional structure inorder to function. One early calculation demonstrated that assuming a random sampling of the available conformations around each bond it would take a time longer than the age of the universe (by many orders of magnitude) for even a simple protein to fold. The Levinthal paradox. The conclusion then wasn’t that proteins couldn’t fold, or that God folds each one individually, but that we had the wrong mechanism and had to understand the mechanism better.

    The same is true with evolution – one can eliminate some mechanisms for evolution on the basis of the kind of calculation you suggest – but one cannnot invalidate evolution itself. We do not (yet) fully understand the mechanisms of evolution. This is an ongoing realm of research.

    Evolution itself would only be disproved if you could undermine observation that life has included increasingly more complex forms. See the diagram last Tuesday.

  • http://www.beyondcreationscience.com/ Norman

    CGC,

    Yes that is the 64 dollar question isn’t it about resurrection. Here is a quickie synopsis of my understanding. The Garden portrays a picture of when men first begin to recognize One God (YHWH) and so God brings them into covenant with Him. You can substitute Adam for Israel in this analysis just as well. According to Paul in Romans 5-7 they would have had forgiveness of their natural sins if they hadn’t committed the Unpardonable sin which is taking the gift of forgiveness away from God and attempting to reconcile it through their own efforts and standards. God saw this as pushing Him aside for their own methodology of works of redemption through written Laws and codes. Christ and Paul both lambasted them over this issue. In the process they forsook the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins and exchanged it for a lie (Satan in the form of corrupt Priest) and were exiled from God until the messiah could come and redeem them. This exilic separation from God is described metaphorically in the Bible as being “dead” and the reason is because at physical death their hope of eternal life was lost if they could not be reconciled back to God. Death is the ultimate separation and I tend toward annihilation at Death for the unfaithful to God so what we have is that the so called faithful of God were no better off than the Godforsaken pagan regarding the consequences of physical death. That needed to be reconciled for God’s faithful in a way that demonstrated through no uncertain terms that eternal life beyond the Grave was a Reality. That is where Christ resurrection comes into play and demonstrates that yes eternal life for faithful in God is a reality again and Garden life is back to where it needs to be.

    Eph 2: 12 remember that at that time you (Gentiles) were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, WITHOUT HOPE AND WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD.

    Now I don’t believe we are in need of further demonstrating of raising the Dead to drive that point home that our eternal lives are secure beyond the Grave. If you were in Adam/Israel you were in what is called the “body of death” which was separation from God and so now if you are in Christ your are in His body of eternal life and have no fear of the Grave and death any more. Death has been Defeated.

    Those who are “members” of that Body of Christ have that gift of eternal life, yet we don’t need to come flying out of our physical graves somehow at the rapture to demonstrate that reality as Christ has already accomplished and verified this for us once and for all. I believe at my physical demise that Christ will bring me to be where He and God are and notwithstanding RJS’s idea that it is body less endeavor I trust God to provide me a home and body so I can sit with Christ just as He has demonstrated He has a Body beyond the Grave. I don’t have to wait in soul sleep like N. T. Wright projects until God will rearrange the molecules here on earth and bring us back to live here. If He wants to then fine as I down and good with any way God wants to do it but I don’t derive that as what the Bible is projecting in its apocalyptic style language. The Bible is more concerned with how we live in the Here and now by trusting God through Christ and letting that freedom from Death strengthen us as we don’t have to depend upon our fail fallible selves to reconcile our relationship with God by our own efforts. Christ took that burden from us and breathes life through His spirit back into us.

    Rom 8: 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

    So bottom line is that through Christ resurrection we are all joined into His body and we go to be with Him at our own physical death. Resurrection is corporate for the faithful of Israel and individually for the member of that life giving body. Gentiles are grafted into the New Body through the work of the Apostles and especially Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. It’s good works continue forever for those who accept the calling to seek life instead of death.

  • http://www.beyondcreationscience.com/ Norman

    CGC,

    About 3 years ago Scot presented that he acknowledges the Preterist hermenutic regarding apocolyptic literature and he presented how to understand it in a 5 piece presentation. However he presented himself as a partial preterist whereas I consider myself a full Preterist. We full Preterist typically claim “partial”s are just dipping the big toe in the hermenutic waters as they investigate the possibility and potential of apocolyptic literature. It’s a safe place to be theolgcially as you don’t have to give extensive answers about ressurection and the logivetiy of planet earth. ;-)

    Also it doesn’t get you strung up by your toes. Typically you are only going to find full preterist as indepentant students of the subject or those who have been ministers but have been fired and can’t get a job now. Of course independance is a double edged sword but for pures scientific investigations into subjects indepence is the only way to go.

  • CGC

    Norman,
    Wow, you gave me a lot more than I thought (thanks). I really like what you say here but I am still confused as to what you were saying about RJS idea? I have read extensively in N. T. Wright’s books and I have never really gotten from Wright the notion of ‘soul sleep?”

    Actually, I think much of what you write here Norman in regards to the ancient Jewish view and how the Bible is more concerned about how we live on earth right now is exactly what Wright is trying to deal with as well. I’m not sure you and Wright are as far apart as you think? And it seems to get into speculate theology a little if we think we know all the ends and out of either life in heaven (or a new heaven) and life on a new earth??? I suspect there will be many surprises either way . . .

  • CGC

    Hi Norman,
    I went to Amazon and looked up the book “Beyond Creation Science.” If I understand what the readers were saying about the book, Christian existence today is the new heaven and new earth and the resurrection of the believer is spiritual (not sure if they were saying the same thing about Christ’s resurrection?). Is this your view?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    CGC (and Norman), I will continue to play the game, tell what DRT thinks and then see if it comes close to Norman…..so,

    I hear NT Wright as saying that we will have life after death, prior to the resurrection, but the bible is pretty much silent about what that is like. So he does not say soul sleep, he says life, without knowing much about it.

  • http://twitter.com/alimcgrathfan hfa

    The main problem with YECers is not that they believe what they do, but that they insist on putting an unnecessary stumbling block in the path of unbelievers. Let the Cross be the stumbling block, not our particular interpretation of one chapter of the Bible.
    What they have done is convince unbelievers that the Bible does indeed teach YEC so people reject the Bible, and the Gospel.

  • scotmcknight

    OK, Norman, don’t bring up your eschatology unless the post is about eschatology. (I’ll let you know.)

  • TJR

    I would like to go back to the 2nd comment. Andrew finds much about young earth creationism admirable. Does anybody else ? I find their uncompromising childlike faith to be childish and not really faith at all. They don’t have faith in God but in a bible which they have created for themselves. There is nothing admirable about driving young people out of the faith and preventing others from considering Christianity by demanding they have a lobotomy before they can join the church. Sorry to be so hard nosed about this but I am trying to draw attention to a problem that has gone on long enough.

  • TJR

    hfa, thank for saying what I wanted to say only better. I had not read your comment before I made mine other wise I might have just agreed with you instead of going on a rant. Scot thanks for your comment to Norman. I always like to stay on the subject.

  • RJS

    TJR,

    I think you are being a bit too hardnosed here. There are some issues that go beyond the merely “biblical” and there are different arguments that people make for some version of young earth creationism. One of the problems is that those who hold to an old earth and evolutionary creation have brushed aside these concerns. We will not have a useful discussion until they are taken seriously and addressed. As one who holds to evolutionary creation I think it falls on us to begin this work.

    Having said that, I also think that the YEC position does drive both Christian young people and non-Christians away, and this is a serious problem.

  • Scot Miller

    DRT (26) — I’m glad you remembered that post from Tony Jones’ blog. It was actually one of my first guest blog posts on his blog…. (You can see my name right after the date.)

  • Merv

    Jonas #27

    I absolutely agree with everything you say Jonas. GOD created – I don’t give a hoot HOW He did it.
    Jesus is said to be Creator as well (e.g. John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1) – but praise God He is also our Redeemer.

    My mission is to help people see they need Jesus in their life and help them realise He came to give life more abundant (John 10.10).

    I don’t argue with people about Old Earth/ Young Earth issues – my job is to help them live as true Christ-followers and manifest the fruit of His Spirit .. they can read all the science books/journals/blogs they like.

    The bottom line is – am I being salt and light because of Jesus’ daily impact and influence on my daily living.

  • http://deathisdefeated.ning.com/profile/Norm Norman

    CGC,

    I’m glad you enjoyed some of my thoughts. I really need to honor Scot’s request though and avoid subjects that are peripheral to the posted subject although it could be argued that eschatology is peripheral to everything biblical.

    Concerning g Wright and “soul sleep”, you might want to Google “Tom Wright Soul Sleep” and read a spell where the issue is debated. I’ve written on the subject but it becomes a nuanced issue and it’s better to search it out for yourself. As for how close I come to Wright’s theology; typically most full Preterist highly praise Wright for his overall consistency. He is about as good at presenting the overall biblical narrative as anyone I can encounter. He is a talent we all enjoy, I just like to nit pic where I perceive inconsistencies. I don’t concern myself with the theologically weak but if I’m nit picking you it could be taken also as a sign of my deep respect for that particular theologian. I pick at Pete Enns all the time but he’s likely the one I respect the most. 

    If you ever feel inclined don’t hesitate to shoot some questions at me privately as I’m really not some shyster weirdo out there lurking to suck people into full Preterism. I actually refuse to discuss these issues with most people and raise them only on sites where people enjoy discussing theology. I refuse to tell my minister friends the details because I consider their ministry work much more important than understanding these issues. The times are just not right for full Preterism except in academic circles in my estimation and even then it’s problematic because just like what we are doing in Genesis many subjects are just too divisive for the church body at this time in history. As an elder in a large church I take relationships every day over theology as the higher calling of pastoral needs.

    My email is normbv at yahoo dot com

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    When it comes to Christians discussing controversial or debatable issues, Christians can be just as insulting and vitrolic as non-Christians. I just started reading Stephen Webb’s book who seems to have the unique ability to treat YEC, ID’s, and TE all with respect (as he is coming from a TE perspective). I also just started reading Allan Bevere’s book today, “All is not as it seems.” Bevere is another who seems to have a rare gift of combining conviction and civility together in a wonderful way. I know Allan sometimes joins in the discussion on this list but I also see why he may opt out of some of our discussions as well.

  • http://facebook.com/marshall.peace Marshall

    The problem I have with Jason and others is that they don’t seem to be able to discriminate between YEC and other more modern theologies that recognize that God is the God of the natural world as well as the God of the Bible: that is, they insist that all religion is fundamentally incompatible with science. So scientists who are personally religious demonstrate only a “trivial” kind of compatibility. Whereas since there is only the one God, any perceived incompatibility must be due to our human perceptive lack.

    …. As to the universe having been created recently as to merely appear to be derived from the Big Bang …. well, if that’s what God wants us to think, we should take that ball and run with it.

  • TJR

    RJS, Your right I guess it’s because I spoke too quickly. I know their are more issues than biblical if you mean such things as the fall and original sin. They are important and not to be brushed aside. In my short and all too quick comment I only dealt with one thing. In fact I was only thinking of responding to Andrew’s comment in the strongest terms. I wanted to see what other TE’s thought and did not consider the YEC’s who might be reading. I am sorry about that.

  • TJR

    When it comes to what the Bible says YEC’s are often right. Let’s forget historical Adam for now and look at the flood. Some folks say the flood was world wide others that it was local. Anyone familiar with the geology knows there is no evidence for a world wide flood but a mountain of evidence against. Therefore, many people opt for the idea of a local flood. But the YEC’s are right it had to be a world wide flood because everything died that was not on the ark. the whole story looks like an undoing of the creation. A local flood won’t cut it. If you think the Bible is inerrant it all it says but were relying on a local flood to hold on to the science you should probably become a YEC. The same is true for Adam, the YEC’s are right about what the Bible says.

  • CGC

    TJR and all,
    People who take the Bible seriously believe there was a flood and probably believe that mankind actually sinned whether Adam and Eve are historical figures or not. I simply don’t think we have to put these issues in such stark either/or categories. People can take the Bible seriously believing its correct interpretation is a local or universal flood; real first couple or this first couple represents something similar in the consequences even if they are more types than actual historical figures. And there is lots of wiggle rooms to mix these issues up even more for more nuanced approaches than this . . . In the end, whatever positions people take, I hope we can simply agree to disagree without being disagreeable!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    TJR conversation – I was driving around with my 16 year old daughter yesterday, listening to american family radio and discussing Haidt’s research into the moral components of liberal and conservative thinking. We would listen to arguments made on AFR and try to categorize where they appeal to conservative principles, which seem to alienate liberals but draw conservatives, it was eye opening. They appeal to authority a great deal, and purity is not far behind. Supporting your team was also strongly present. The harm and fairness components rarely came up though. It is almost like they are actually trying to alienate liberal thinking. Quite a fun thing.

    The relevant part is that by the end of the conversation my daughter said that they actually have an enviable position. She concluded that they have come up with a way that they can have certainty about all of these issues and feel good about their certainty since they have a lot of support from other folks. Meanwhile she and I perpetually wallow in uncertainty and have to adopt a much more open approach to issues where we constantly rethink where we are and come up with new concepts.

    The YEC position must be quite reassuring emotionally to those who believe it.

  • http://www.crowhill.net/blog Crowhill

    “…young scholars feast on making their mark by offering some contribution to knowledge; if the basics of evolution were wrong, the young scholars would feast on it because they could make their contribution. Don’t forget that: this stuff is being checked day in and day out.”

    This is standard fare among science defenders. As a general rule it may be true, but I don’t think it’s true when an issue has become politicized. Where, for example, are the young scholars who are trying to prove there are racial differences, or that men are superior to women (or vice versa)? You can’t even hint at such things or you lose your job.

    (BTW, I am not a creationist.)

  • RJS

    Crowhill,

    You are right about these kinds of issues – and there are a number of reasons worth considering. One, I think, is the evil that was done in the name of racial or ethnic superiority.

    But a scientist who found a rabbit among trilobites, who found that neutrinos appeared to travel faster than the speed of light, who could demonstrate that radioactive decay rates changed with time, would be willing and able to publicize these results. There is danger in being too sensationalistic, but value in reporting unexpected results. On the neutrino issue – further investigation has pretty much demonstrated that the fault was with the observation, and the speed of light is still an upper limit, even for neutrinos.

    One of the ways we can see that Dawkins is as much an ideologue as a scientist is by the way he attacked Craig Venter for suggesting that evolution may be somewhat different than expected (I forget the details but the exchange was memorable). Dawkins was afraid admitting this would open a crack for creationists … he should have known better. He put himself in league with the creationists in the cartoon at the top of this post.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    One of the ways we can see that Dawkins is as much an ideologue as a scientist is by the way he attacked Craig Venter for suggesting that evolution may be somewhat different than expected (I forget the details but the exchange was memorable).

    Are you referring to this? Biologos disagrees with your characterization…

  • RJS

    I think you miss my point Ray. Certainly Venter never denied common descent – and I wasn’t suggesting that he had. My point is that we follow the data without fear of where it might lead. To do otherwise for whatever reason puts one on the “wrong” side of the cartoon (my value judgment). So it is important to listen to any exchange and evaluate why an argument is being made or a statement is being resisted.

    Another example I could use would be a situation where the NCSE stepped in and noted that there were ideological reasons rather than scientific reasons for using certain words in an “official” definition of evolution. We need to be accurate and precise, and try as much as possible to separate the metaphysical assumptions from the natural science. In science we need to be willing to go wherever the evidence leads.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    RJS – I think you miss my point. Biologos doesn’t say Dawkins “attacked” Venter. He asked Venter about what he’d said. In point of fact, they give actual quotes:

    “I’m intrigued,” replies Dawkins, “at Craig saying that the tree of life is a fiction. I mean…the DNA code of all creatures that have ever been looked at is all but identical.” … “Surely that means,” he asks Venter, “that they’re all related? Doesn’t it?”

    I mean, that’s an “attack”? Is that the exchange you called “memorable,” that proves Dawkins is an “ideologue”?

    (I’ve found that Dawkins’ actual words are usually far less obstreperous than his critics claim; which is why they very often don’t quote his actual words.)

  • RJS

    Ray,

    Dawkins has certainly been misrepresented by his critics.

    I also think that Dawkins on the spur of the moment has said things he wouldn’t given time to think more carefully. I think he would take care to go with the evidence.

    But my memory was not harking back to the DI spin (which I never read) or the BioLogos discussion (which I had read), but to having listened to some exchanges – videos or audios.

    Quibbling aside, would you agree that it is important to consider why a statement is being made or an argument being resisted?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    RJS –

    But my memory was not harking back to the DI spin (which I never read) or the BioLogos discussion (which I had read), but to having listened to some exchanges – videos or audios.

    Well, the video is linked from the Biologos discussion, and the words I quoted were transcribed from that video. If you remember an ‘attack’ on Venter, it doesn’t seem to be there, and I can’t find another.

    I’m not claiming Dawkins is perfect, and there are areas where I disagree with him, or think he overstates – for example, he sees very little positive in religion; I’m willing to give it more credit in some areas (while still seeing it as a net negative). What I am challenging is your contention that this particular incident is an example of him ‘attacking’ anyone, or being an ‘ideologue’. Heck, I don’t even see him being overly defensive in this case.

    Quibbling aside, would you agree that it is important to consider why a statement is being made or an argument being resisted?

    Yes… and no. C.S. Lewis has warned of Bulverism: “…you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong.” Or, as Sidney Hook put it, “Before impugning an opponent’s motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments.”

    Motive only matters if the argument is not being resisted on its merits (or lack thereof).

  • TJR

    CGC #60, I agree with you that,people can take the Bible seriously believing its correct interpretation is a local or universal flood. However, the law of contradiction would tell us that for one flood it would have to be either local or universal it could not be both at the same time. To me it seems that a careful study of the text supports a universal flood. I agree with the YEC’s about that. What I don’t like about the YEC is the having to come up with a fabricated science to support their claims. It would be better if they just said I can’t accept the science and not try to come up with their own science.

  • TJR

    DRT #61, sounds like your daughter has some good insight there. You are right that, certainty is quite reassuring emotionally to those who believe it. The point I wanted to make was that that often the YEC’s are correct about the Bible but wrong about science. My solution is that the Bible was a product of the time it was written and thus can be mistaken in matters of science. What I see others doing is trying to change what the Bible is saying so that it does not conflict with science. In cases like that I take the side of the YEC’s about what the Bible is saying.

  • RJS

    Ray,

    I don’t think we are talking about the same thing; or I don’t see where your Lewis quote is relevant.

    Motive matters when a scientific explanation is being resisted for reasons irrelevant to the truth of the science (to look specifically at the matter under consideration here). This is true when people suggest that evolution must be false because believing in evolution leads to Hitler … the Ben Stein “documentary” is an excellent example of this. The motive for doubting evolution has nothing to do with the evidence for evolution. But it is also true when people try to hold a “party line” on data for evolution to avoid giving creationists a toehold … the motive for minimizing the data has nothing to do with the search for truth.

    The only point I was trying to make is that we have to look only at the data, not at any potential consequence of the data.

  • http://www.beyondcreationscience.com/ Norman

    Part of the issue I see with understanding the Flood narrative is determining what purpose it was written for and how to decipher it. I agree that it calls for a universal flood but if we recognize that the flood account is setting up a universal judgment in messianic overtones then we have the solution. One of the key recognitions is that it becomes a template for future judgment upon corrupt Israel which makes sense because it was written somewhere around the time of the first temple exile. This kind of judgment had already been in play with other OT literature such as we find at the end of Deuteronomy and continues to permeate the OT. Read the minor prophets for good examples.

    Judgment upon Israel and Judgment upon the Nations becomes an unfailing theme up to and including the NT times. One theme also is the destruction of “all flesh” in the flood account and Paul explicitly details that all flesh has indeed been judged in lieu of the higher spiritual nature of the Spirit. IMO the flood account has little to do with history but was utilized by prophets to portray and justify future Judgments coming upon corrupt Israel and the Nations. That is why we see the universal application of the flood because that is exactly what Christ accomplished where life through the “flesh” was destroyed.

    So by recognizing the literature genre and the Jewish mindset that wrote it we can determine that Universal application is indeed correct as a prophetic implication. The flood account becomes the backbone of much of 2T and NT references to the events that were unfolding due to Christ messiah coming in the fullness of time. It’s a very Jewish type of story and can’t be judged as history because the Jews knew how to write history and they also knew how to write apocalyptic prophecy. One of the best examples in the OT is the Gog/Magog war that occurs in Eze 38-39 in which fulfilled Israel living in unwalled cities see the defeat of those two Nations. This example has spawned numerous literal applications of coming desolations when all along it is hyperbolic literature stating that God will not let the forces of evil defeat the people of His pasture. Gen 1-11 is full of that kind of Jewish style prophetic narrative that works their purpose in defiance of the corruptness that surrounded them.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Wait. You’re portraying Dawkins as being irrationally resistant to what Venter had to say – because he asked for clarification of a provocative statement?

    He didn’t cry, “Die heretic scum!” He didn’t say, “You’re being irrational.” He didn’t even say, “Quiet, the creationists might be listening.” No, he… asked if Venter still thought all life on Earth was related.

    I’m seriously not following what Dawkins is supposed to have done wrong here. Perhaps you could lay out what you think Dawkins should have asked or said?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    RJS and Ray Ingles, I have looked at all the stuff you two are talking about and think there is a disconnect here. Having said that, I would like to see it resolved because it is interesting.

  • Nik

    Interesting. I have been thinking about these things for several months since the BioLogos vs ID war came to my awareness. I personally don’t feel a need to close in on a story of origins developed by recent science. Its not that I’m against the scientific method per-se, but I’m surprised that many so-called Christian “postmodernists” (or emergents/whatever) would be enthusiastic to support the Darwinist story. If your shivering in your shoes over the decision to confess Darwinian evolution and Christianity all at once, isn’t there a slave master at your throat?

    I’m still not convinced of either YEC or TE since they seem to be a developing conversation (both with presuppositions integrated to developing scientific “evidences”). Genesis 1 and 2 were written allegorically and phenomenologically to give a meta-structure for YHWHists. Genesis assumes a perspective on time common to the ancients that doesn’t necessarily reflect analytical time (more recent view after the invention of the watch). So… What’s the fuss?… maybe I’m missing something :P.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Nik, perhaps you don’t know this, but there is pretty much no one on this site that is a “Darwinist”. If you want to engage you really need to use the concepts that people here actually believe in. Common descent, evolution, theistic evolution, etc. Darwinism is interpreted as theories that a particular individual made over a century ago, and those theories have been revised and clarified over time Referring to my beliefs as Darwinist is simply missing the past 150 years of research.

  • TJR

    Nik from your code words it sounds like most of your thinking has been one sided; “recent” science, “Darwinian” evolution. To want to live in the world of real science and not an imaginary one does not imply a slave master at your throat. By the way Gen. 1 is considered to be Priestly and written after the J story of Adam and Eve so it could not “give a meta-structure for YHWHists”. The fuss is about people putting up road blocks to the gospel. It’s like you must be circumcised and keep the food laws to be a Christian. Only this time it’s you have to accept a false science.

  • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/ Michael Snow

    When Christians, of what ever end of the spectrum, discuss this issue, the focus invariably dwells on science. Scripture is rarely discussed. The first two verses of Genesis, and what they do NOT tell us is totally ignored by YECs.
    See great Calvin quote:
    http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/in-the-beginning/

  • Julian hardyman

    Thanks for highlighting this book, scot: I have found it really stimulating. I will be preaching through genesis 1-11 next academic year and it has given me lots of food for thought


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