Creationism is Bigger Than the Age of the Earth Question

Creationism is Bigger Than the Age of the Earth Question October 26, 2018
ESO/A. Fitzsimmons

It’s not every day that you get to see Ken Ham pick a fight with Matt Walsh, but it happened this week, after the conservative firebrand posted a video explaining why he rejects young Earth creationism. Walsh states emphatically that the evidence has spoken loudly across multiple disciplines, that this is not a hill anybody should be dying on, and that evangelical Christians are damaging the impact of their witness by making it so. This was a follow-up to a tweet thread where he wrote:

“…[S]cience absolutely definitively tells us that the universe was not formed in a 7 day period. No legitimate scientist anywhere will dispute this. So, if you are unnecessarily married to the 7 day creation (which you need not be, theologically)…”

“Then that means you must do two things: 1) Completely reject modern science altogether, which confirms atheist suspicions that we are anti-science fools. 2) Claim that God made the universe to look older so as to deceive us, which makes God a deceiver.”

In reply, Ken Ham writes (emphasis original):

By accepting the dogma of secular science, Walsh completely ignores the context of God’s infallible Word… He is right that the word “day” in the Bible has multiple meanings, but not when it is combined with evening, morning, and a number as it is in Genesis 1. Every single time it is used with those words, it means a literal 24-hour day, something he completely ignores.

It is very ironic that Walsh regularly defends biblical positions such as biblical marriage, human life made in God’s image beginning at fertilization, two created genders and so on, but rejects the foundation for those beliefs. Without appealing to Genesis, there is no foundation for marriage. Abortion becomes perfectly acceptable if we aren’t made in the image of God. Get rid of spare cats or spare kids—what’s the difference? Why should we have two genders if God did not make them male and female in the beginning? Genesis provides the answers to those questions.

Well, that escalated quickly.

Here’s the problem with this topic. It’s the same problem that has been dogging the creationism conversation for decades now: Christians and skeptics alike are unable to unhitch the age of the earth question from creationism writ large.

What do I mean by “creationism writ large?” I mean things like the miraculous origin and detectable design of species, the special creation of man, and the coming of sin and human death into the world through its first parents. I mean things like a divine telos both for the soul and the body, including the male/female binary. In short, I mean many of the same things Ken Ham tells us he cares about. I would like to inform Ken Ham that Matt Walsh and I care about them too. Evidence of Walsh’s stance can be found in old tweets, including one where he tweets that human evolution in particular seems “unworkable” from a Christian standpoint: “I mean, Adam, a human soul, had parents who were soulless primates?” This implies that he would most likely align with old Earth creationists rather than theistic evolutionists.

But there’s a lesson here for Walsh too. In his Vlog, he makes arguments like “Brilliant people such as [insert Einstein or someone here] accept this,” or “Are you seriously going to say that these entire disciplines are just wrong?” or “The consensus is almost unanimous on this.” Here, it could fairly be pointed out by a young Earth creationist that precisely these sorts of lines are used on people who balk at universal common descent, which of course includes human evolution. If Walsh is concerned about reaching the skeptical world, he should understand that merely rejecting a young Earth while still not buying into the entire evolutionary package deal will gain him no extra traction.

Walsh should also understand that consensus in any field is a multivariate phenomenon, and entire disciplines can in theory and practice rest on faulty premises. This applies not only in the realm of science but in humanities fields like biblical criticism. There are always those few precepts that are placed in Thomas Kuhn’s “black box,” never to be questioned, and it sometimes takes the chutzpah of an outsider to break the lock. (This must be constantly borne in mind when one reads technical literature that admits the existence of leaks in the H. M. S. Beagle but still salutes its flag by professional necessity. For example, while scientists like Carl Woese, Didier Raoult, James Staley, and more still admit only a few common ancestors when they argue against a tree rooted in a single common ancestor, this does not stop those of us unhampered by naturalistic presuppositions from using their arguments to give the forest’s lower branches a healthily skeptical shake.)

When making these points, some people have concluded that Walsh was “posturing” in the thread and the video. I would be less harsh. I think Walsh is honestly unaware of how creationism is bound up with the age of the earth in the minds of scientists and laymen alike. His endearingly matter-of-fact tweet about the parents of Adam being soulless primates indicates to me that he doesn’t realize how many Christians in the field would unblinkingly argue exactly that. No doubt he would say “What? But that’s ridiculous!” if someone informed him of this fact. I would agree. I think we could use a bit more common sense and a bit less group-think on these matters. But unfortunately, the socio-cultural situation is what it is, both outside and, increasingly, inside the Church. If we want to talk about Christians “posturing,” I’ve got much better candidates in mind for that descriptor than Matt Walsh.

That said, I agree with Walsh that the age of the Earth should not be made a litmus test of faith on a par with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a homeschool alumni, I knew of people who did make a young Earth such a litmus test, and it did no favors for their kids’ faith. One alum I knew of went on to leave Christianity altogether, another almost did but thankfully encountered a Christian who offered him a more tough-minded framework. But where Walsh would say we should be concerned with how this will affect our witness to the outside world, I would say our more pressing concern is how it will affect the young people in our own churches. Much more work still lies ahead of Matt Walsh than giving up a young Earth if he’s going to reason a complete outsider into the faith. But he can start teaching his kids about philosophy of science and intelligent design any time.

Contrary to its reputation among scientific elitists as a “science-stopper,” intelligent design is a rich research field, providing many positive indicators of creative intelligence. Embarrassingly, theistic evolutionists prove themselves indistinguishable from Richard Dawkins here, as they keep labeling ID a “God of the gaps” argument, and ID researchers keep having to correct them. (As a side note, perhaps this is cruel, but the idea of “theistic evolution” seems comparable to the idea of civil unions for gays: a thing people thought was culturally hip for all of five minutes.)

Yet even old Earth coupled with a robust affirmation of detectable design will not be enough to satisfy many in the young Earth camp, Ken Ham included. There are two reasons for this: First, they are genuinely persuaded that “mountains of evidence” point to a young Earth. Second, they believe insurmountable theological problems are created by giving up a young Earth.

On the first reason, let it first be said that while I myself am persuaded by the scientific arguments for an old Earth, it is unproductive to imply as Walsh does that the scientists who affirm a young Earth are simply not that bright. Say what you like about guys like Todd Wood, Paul Nelson, et alia, but unintelligent, they are not. They are professionals who do serious work and deserve a voice. That being said, while acknowledging that I have not dived deeply into the literature, it seems from my perspective to require a lot of genuinely clumsy modelling to force the data we have into a young Earth mold. I don’t wish to insult the minds of all the people who have worked on such models, but they are pushing themselves to what appear to be unnecessary limits.

However, this brings us to the second reason, which is that young Earth scientists are driven by what they see as a compelling theological need to find such a fit. Unfortunately, Answers in Genesis literature consistently mixes and matches the problems they feel arise just from old Earth and the problems that legitimately do arise from a general fictionalizing of Genesis 1-2. This does not aid clear conversation.

Nevertheless, old Earth creationists like myself can still sympathize with some of the former, e.g., the conundrum of animal death. It does create a certain amount of cognitive dissonance to imagine billions of years of groaning nature red in tooth and claw before man and his sin have entered the scene. However, it’s a level of dissonance that seems to me and many other thoughtful conservative Christians to be tolerable. (Here I’ll point readers to this article by my good friend soon-to-be Doctor Jonathan McLatchie, who is a genius and a fount of knowledge on all things creation, intelligent design, and biblical scholarship. I recommend browsing through his archives at the Discovery Institute’s blog, Evolution News.)

Despite the fact that I see no pressing philosophical or theological need to overhaul the case for an old Earth, I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough: Science needs the checks and balances of philosophy and theology. Stephen Jay Gould was wrong. The magisteria not only can, but must overlap. This goes both ways, of course, but far more people have forgotten one way than the other.

It is imperative that scholars and laymen alike, Christian or not, cultivate an integrated mind. The idea that you can and should keep your scientific views hermetically sealed off from your philosophical or theological views is a dangerous fiction. More than a little humility is in order when you are dealing in the realm of educated guess rather than empirical certainty, as evolutionary scientists are. The moment you take the next step after raw data collection and begin weighing probabilities and theoretical virtues of your model, you are no longer in the realm of pure science. You have stepped into the realm of philosophy. It thus behooves the scientist to pay attention on his journey in model-building to the signs saying “Warning! Philosophical reductio ahead!”

Christians who have strong independent reason to believe Christianity is true should also be on the look-out for similar signs replacing “philosophical” with “theological.” This should especially apply to models that make a Gnostic hash out of imago Dei and human exceptionalism. The scientist who is a Christian should not simply shrug his shoulders and say “Oh well, I guess we don’t really know what imago Dei means anymore, but onward. The Science has Spoken.” He should recognize that the implications of universal common descent for human origins are antithetical to everything we know of the nature of man, both by the natural light and scriptural revelation. They are, in fact, so bizarrely antithetical that it should require evidence very nearly on the order of being able to point a telescope at the sky and see the planets revolving around the sun to even the balance.

I have yet to find that kind of evidence, though to hear the way some scientists talk, you would think we had it. To give a taste of the scientific counter-arguments that can be mounted against the arguments for common ancestry, I refer my readers to this detailed engagement with the argument for common ancestry of humans and chimps from mice/rat similarities, this technical look at the argument from the vitellogenin pseudogene, and this  response cum lit survey to the argument from shared ERVs.

In conclusion, there is much that young and old Earth creationists can link arms and shake hands on. But the white noise produced on all sides by the single-minded focus on one particular thread of the conversation, the Earth’s age, has made a peace treaty almost impossible to broker. Thus, when someone like Ken Ham sees someone like Matt Walsh holding forth on the age of the Earth, using language that would ring very familiar to anyone who rejects the broader evolutionary narrative, he understandably thinks “Here we go again.” And as mentioned above, he likely would still not be satisfied even upon learning that Walsh still rejects the rest of the evolutionary package deal.

Again, such is the socio-cultural landscape through which thoughtful Christians seeking a reasonable balance between faith and science must thread their way. Still, let us continue to do so, with integrated minds, thick skins, common sense, and a clear understanding of exactly what we are talking about when we talk about creationism.

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  • Richard Lee

    http://beyondcreationscience.com/ Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn book put to rest for me the above controversy.

  • Hrafn

    Contrary to its reputation among scientific elitists as a “science-stopper,” intelligent design is a rich research field, providing many positive indicators of creative intelligence. Embarrassingly, theistic evolutionists prove themselves indistinguishable from Richard Dawkins here, as they keep labeling ID a “God of the gaps” argument, and ID researchers keep having to correct them.

    The Casey Luskin piece that you link to bases this claim on (i) William Dembski’s Complex Specified Information claims, which have been widely debunked, including for being hopelessly informal (“Written in Jello” in the words of one prominent mathematician), and Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt, a reworking of his long-debunked Cambrian claims, that contained no original research, and was dismissed by one of his own cited paleontological sources as:

    But when it comes to explaining the Cambrian explosion, Darwin’s Doubt is compromised by Meyer’s lack of scientific knowledge, his “god of the gaps” approach, and selective scholarship that appears driven by his deep belief in an explicit role of an intelligent designer in the history of life.

    A more accurate restatement of your claim is that ID claims to be a rich research field and claims providing many positive indicators of creative intelligence, but that these claims are dismissed by the scientific community due to (i) lack of original research supporting these claims, (ii) lack of rigor, (iii) lack of independent peer review, and/or (iv) their basis in an incomplete, and often cherry-picked, surveys of the existing research.

    (I would also note that Alister McGrath, the target of Luskin’s article, has not been a working scientist for something like forty years. Since then he’s worked as a theologian and Christian apologist. If ID is unable to convince such a potentially-sympathetic listener as to its bona fides, then its chances of convincing the scientific community is slim-to-none.)

    (As a side note, perhaps this is cruel, but the idea of “theistic evolution” seems comparable to the idea of civil unions for gays: a thing people thought was culturally hip for all of five minutes.)

    I would point out that Theistic Evolution (also known as Evolutionary Creation) has been the majority position of the main organization of American Christian scientists, the American Scientific Affiliation, for more than half a century — hardly “culturally hip” or “for all of five minutes”.

  • Hrafn

    The moment you take the next step after raw data collection and begin weighing probabilities and theoretical virtues of your model, you are no longer in the realm of pure science. You have stepped into the realm of philosophy.

    Utter balderdash. In taking that step we are entering the realm of empirical testing, part of the core of the scientific method, and an area in which philosophy (other than as description-of-how-science-does-it in Philosophy of Science) has proved itself woefully incapable of (which is one reason why so many philosophical disagreements are intractable). This is in fact arguably the principle virtue of science over either philosophy or theology.
    I would suggest that there is no benefit to science of applying the (purported) “checks and balances of philosophy and theology” to it. This argument appears to be more common among philosophers and theologians with an at-best superficial engagement with science (Thomas Nagel comes immediately to mind) rather than working scientists (who know how science actually works).
    I would also ask which philosophies and theologies we should be applying as “checks and balances” to science, as both fields encompass a constellation of divergent (and often intractably divergent) viewpoints. This would appear to lead to science being as intractably balkanized as philosophy and theology — which is hardly a benefit.

  • @EstherOReilly

    There is such a thing as objectively good and bad philosophy. Ditto for theology.

  • Hrafn

    If there were a set of widely-accepted objective criteria for demonstrating that each philosophical or theological viewpoint was inferior or superior to others, I would suspect that we would have far fewer viewpoints than are observable.

    I would suspect that there might be a few philosophies and theologies around that are “objectively” bad, e.g. because they are obviously incoherent, inconsistent or (in the case of theologies) obviously violate the precepts of their sacred texts. This would however considerably hamper their acceptance and survival.

    For the most part however, I would suspect that both inferiority/superiority and ‘objectivity’ is in the eyes of the beholder.

  • VicqRuiz

    Esther –

    Consider the work of someone who builds a complete scale model of Victorian London using Legos. Every street, every mansion and hovel, every street lamp in its proper place. That would be pretty darned impressive.

    Now imagine someone who created a single Lego which could over time replicate itself into every shape and size needed to create that same model, each block moving into precisely the place required using instructions encoded and passed from block to block.

    Which of the two would be the more impressive feat of creation?

  • VicqRuiz

    Re the Cambrian explosion – anyone who holds to an old-earth creationist position should at some point consider the question of the billion years of false starts and dead ends in the history of life.

    What purpose of a cosmic designer was served by Hallucigenia or T.rex or Homo habilis?

  • @EstherOReilly

    Because how widely accepted something is is totally synonymous with how objectively true it is…obviously…

  • Hrafn

    By “widely accepted”, I meant has achieved some level of consensus of acceptance by the philosophical or theological community. As opposed to some random crank’s idiosyncratic criteria.

    I would note that you have offered absolutely no substantiation for your bald assertion that “there is such a thing as objectively good and bad philosophy. Ditto for theology.”

    Further, you have offered no purportedly objective criteria for evaluating them, nor examples of purportedly objectively-good or objectively bad philosophies or theologies.

    At this stage, the evidence does not support that your claim is anything more than wishful thinking.

  • bruce

    Isn’t there an honest issue of the boundaries created by human consciousness and perception?

    Basic physics demands that the stars are light years away.

    Basic scripture demands that Adam and Eve were created with the apparent age of adulthood.

    The resurrection of Christ asserts that matter and time are not constant, but shape and substance shift according to God’s pleasure.

    So why can’t I accept what evolution claims to tell me based on its sparse and provisional evidence?

    Also, it seems to me that an apparently “young earth” would be too Lego like to to justice to God’s glory.

    In him all things consist.

  • TinnyWhistler

    Creativity for creativity’s sake is the usual answer.

  • Julian W

    I can’t believe how fundamentally these discussions miss the point. Why is everyone talking about weather Genisis is a scientific textbook, instead of asking what it means? If there is one gift Jordan Peterson has given us, it is the ability to read these texts at a level much deeper than what we hear from Ken Ham’s camp. These texts weren’t written by scientists, and they weren’t trying to communicate science. I’m with NT Wright on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffWo7nzL66o

  • Jonathan Fernandez

    I find the debate puzzling: if God wants to create a universe embedded with the artifacts of an apparent “old earth creation” then He will. Giving God additional “time” to do an Old Earth creation is silly: if there is a God, you’ve conceded that He has the power to create as He sees fit. He doesn’t need more time to unfold it. Imagine I made a computer simulation that builds a 4 dimensional world. The computer doesn’t need to generate the 4D world in that simulated world’s “real time”. Also, it generates the properties of its objects as it is made to do. Those properties can have a generated property called “4D world” age. If you want a “science-based” 24 hour period within this universe that allows for billions of years: stick God at a super-massive black hole’s event horizon: God’s experienced “24 hours” will be billions of years in the universe fast-forwarding by Him. The debate is idiotic. Once you accept God, you don’t need to conceive of the “how” of the creation. He’s pleased Himself and us to let us run down rabbit holes unraveling the mystery of evolution, the theories may help us make better use and guardianship of this world. But they don’t need to “account” for God’s creation themselves. I see no contradiction between The Bible and Evolution.

  • Roger Morris

    This is why Christianity – and religion in general – has become so incredibly irrelevant to so many people. That these kinds of arguments are still being had within Christianity shows how infantile the whole thing is. Christianity is a stultifying and infantilizing force hampering the progress of humanity.

  • No, the age of the earth is not a salvation issue, but it is an authority issue. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are clearly narrative and clearly describe a creation of recent origin involving 6 days. If God is unwilling or unable to say what He means and mean what He says in these foundational chapters, there is no good reason to believe what He says in the rest of scripture. This is of particular importance to young people who are searching for truth in God’s Word, not equivocation which places science or philosophy as the judge of scripture.

  • Drue Mc Laughlin

    However one ends up interpreting the “data” if the Bible is genuine revelation and here Paul’s argument that Act 17:26 KJV And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;…and also Peter’s statement that men are ignorant of the fact of the flood and coming judgement, If our new traditions make the word of God to no effect and take on the supremacy of “scientific” as the ultimate authority, where will you stand on judgement day? The wisdom of this world is foolishness or as a late poet said “all the truth in the world adds up to one big lie”

  • Rod Bristol

    Reading Genesis 1 and 2 as if they are history does violence to the text. The text is not history, because it is inconsistent from an historical perspective. Genesis 2:4 says creation was done in a day, using the same Hebrew word as in chapter 1. (NIV obscures this by putting English “when” for Hebrew “yom” in 2:4.) Furthermore, chapter 2 does not merely give a different level of detail than chapter 1; it paints a different picture of creation. and 2:5 explains why it presents a different sequence of creation than chapter 1. The fact that Jesus and Paul referred to Genesis in no way indicates its historicity. Rhetoric frequently connects to the principles depicted in familiar stories and hearers get the point whether the story is history or allegory. Respect for scripture demands treating allegory as allegory.

    The theology at risk by reading the early chapters of Genesis as figurative and not historical feels precious to many. However, that theology is a human creation. Our theology should always be subject to revision when it clashes with scripture.

    If you want to see an expansion of these points, read this: https://readfresh.pub/ReadGenesis

  • Illithid

    “…the implications of universal common descent for human origins are antithetical to everything we know of the nature of man, both by the natural light and scriptural revelation. They are, in fact, so bizarrely antithetical that it should require evidence very nearly on the order of being able to point a telescope at the sky and see the planets revolving around the sun to even the balance.”

    I see nothing in human nature that is antithetical to our relationship to other apes. Observe our politics. But also, one example out of many, there are the broken vitamin C genes that humans share with other primates. Either humans and other primate species somehow suffered the same mutations in the same genes, over several loci, or God created all haplorhine primates with the same nonfunctional genes (leaving them intact in other mammals), or the mutations occurred in a common ancestor species and we all inherited it from them.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/L-gulonolactone_oxidase

    So either a ludicrously improbable coincidence occurred (several identical mutations in the same genes of several species of nonhuman apes, and also in humans, all occuring independently), or God is trying to trick us into thinking we’re related to other apes, or we are in fact related. To say nothing of the similarity of the rest of our genome, our protein sequences, our skeletons, our embryology… We’re apes. Chimps and orangutangs are our cousins. Deal with it.

  • maninthegap

    Yom in Genesis 1 clearly is a normal week day contextually. Ham is right about that BUT he is still wrong on a literal 7-day creation week, How can this be? The author is most likely using the work week to frame his presentation as a a polemic against Canaanite creationism and for Hebrew Sabbath observance. Why few people mention is “why” the author uses this image, and good exegesis cannot ignore this question for the ancient social context. Was the author really concerned with how many hours God spent creating? Unlikely. It was not an issue then. Confirming 144 hours had no take-away value for that audience. The purpose is most likely theological.

  • maninthegap

    Sorry for the typos: “a a” and it should say “What few people mention …”

  • TinnyWhistler

    Why do you think that authority and truth can’t be conveyed through use of metaphor?

    When Jesus said “There was a certain man who…” in his parables do you take that to mean He was talking about a literal man? He “clearly” says there was, after all! If Jesus is unwilling or unable to say what He means and mean what He says in the Gospels, there is no good reason to believe what He says in the rest of scripture.

    As an ACTUAL young person, I’ll just come out and say that I have a much easier time reconciling a God who uses metaphor to skim through millions of years of history to quickly get to the POINT of Genesis, namely Abraham and his descendants and their covenant with God with the God Jesus describes than I do a God who is so restricted by language as young earth creationists would have Him be.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Yes, I’m aware of the Vitamin C pseudogene argument. It’s part of a class of arguments which are dealt with in some of the links I gave at the end of the piece. The vitollogenin pseudogene is another example (one of many) of alleged “junk DNA” which has actually been found to have some plausible use. It’s frankly unscientific to call DNA “junk.” This is still a very vast frontier indeed, and I think a little bit more humility might be in order for the scientists who want to explore it. Here’s one simple proposed model for the Vitamin C pseudogene:

    https://evolutionnews.org/2013/08/a_simple_propos/

    In short, what people assert boldly as “evidence of common descent,” I simply do not think we are in a position to claim as strong positive evidence when so much is still so speculative in this realm. As for your assertion that there is no significant dissimilarity between human nature and chimp nature, all I will say is that when the chimps produce a Tolstoy, we will read him.

  • Illithid

    I’ll note that the link you provide argues for the functionality for the vitamin C pseudogene. If correct, this is interesting… but does not invalidate its evidentiary value for common ancestry of humans and other primates who share the identically modified gene.

    I don’t even see how finding that this gene is functional supports ID. It would simply be an instance of a mutation that persisted in a population because it converted an otherwise unneeded gene (ascorbic acid being ample in the diet of the population) into something more useful. But that’s another topic. Whatever the value of the mutations, humans share it with other apes.

  • @EstherOReilly

    The alleged strength of the argument from pseudogenes is that it would be absurd to suppose that God “planted” the same useless, broken, “junk” gene in human beings and chimps separately by special creation. The best explanation, so the argument goes, is that it arose by natural genetic means, a blind process not caring if junk is created along the way. If, however, these pseudogenes are plausibly shown to have a function, then you no longer have that argument against a design hypothesis. The question is whether the data at hand can be equally or better explained by design. The mere fact that humans share something in common with apes doesn’t constitute positive evidence for a non-design theory if a design theory works at least as well as an explanation. Just as human designers reuse blueprints, the designer of life could have done the same. And indeed, *everything* in the body that bespeaks a purpose constitutes a positive clue of a purposeful, designing mind, which explains the data better than supposing purposeful design to have arisen from chance processes.

  • abinico

    The translation was wrong; a better wording would be stages instead of days.

  • Jeff

    Unfortunately for Ham, Jesus got it wrong, the mustard seed is not the smallest seed.

    Science and religion are mutually exclusive and share nothing. Religion, is based on faith and rejects evidence, and science, is based on evidence and rejects faith. Let’s move on.

  • Illithid

    The design hypothesis has a handicap, which is that the mechanism it posits has not been demonstrated. That aside, what common descent explains much better than design is the nested heirarchies of adaptations observed in various lineages. In the case of the gene we’re discussing, which I’ll call C, we have a variation I’ll call Ca, which appears in haplorhine primates (I’ll just say “apes” from now on, though apes are a subset). There are other variations, for example in guinea pigs we have what I’ll call Cg. Now Ca is found in all apes, including humans, and nowhere else. If Ca were found in guinea pigs, that might be evidence of design, since common descent would not predict that.

    Consider atavistic traits. “Rare as hen’s teeth” is a phrase. Birds are sometimes born with teeth. No mystery: their ancestors had teeth, and sometimes a mutation reactivates their development. Sometimes humans are born with tails, including, IIRC, (very underdeveloped) musculature to move them. Again, no mystery: human ancestors had tails. But humans are never born with feathers. Birds are never born with hair. Those structures do not appear in the ancestries of those organisms. If they ever did occur, that would be evidence against common descent. Especially, if functional structures appeared in what are considered distantly related species, with identical genes, and those genes did not appear in organisms more closely related to those species, (if bats had feathers, for instance) that would be evidence for design. AFAIK, that does not occur.

  • Matt Walsh is not the first to succumb to peer pressure. He will not be the last. But God’s Word will stand the test of time.

  • John Purssey

    It’s about time the pointlessness of the arguments over creationism (and its alter ego of intelligent design) vs evolution, young earth vs cosmological age of earth and the universe was generally recognised, though perhaps only a few see that weighing into these sorts of discussions is worthwhile.

    The purpose of the writing of Genesis had nothing to do with providing a factual account of the mundane aspects of creation/the world-universe. It was the creation of the Jewish faith tradition that was seeking to explain their experience of God and how humans relate to God and one another. The most prominent statement is that the world is good, and it presents the view that the divine is outside nature and not to be found in trees, rocks, and streams or human made images etc in contrast to the contemporary views of surrounding cultures.

    As Jonathan Sacks said “Science will explain how but not why. It talks about what is, not what ought to be. Science is descriptive, not prescriptive; it can tell us about causes but it cannot tell us about purposes. Indeed, science disavows purposes.” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/24b41ff447ac9dae408d1dbd87bf7534c054dd92818852b7368bdd1ddc6a8701.jpg

  • lzzrdgrrl

    It’s easier to keep in mind that in Genesis and scripture, God is talking about US, our nature and being in comparison to the rest of creation. God is not talking about stuff, like matter and energy and the origins of things. It’s rather really simple……..

  • TinnyWhistler

    “If, however, these pseudogenes are plausibly shown to have a function, then you no longer have that argument against a design hypothesis.”

    That’s still not an argument in SUPPORT of ID, it just potentially removes one (of many) against it. The thing being functional doesn’t make evolution less strong any more than hair follicles growing hair in both humans and apes does. Again, it removes a strike against ID but does nothing to argue for it or to argue against evolution.

  • @EstherOReilly

    So “all” we have are a whole bunch of intricate, sophisticated macro and micro systems/processes full of information and telic orientation (see metamorphosis of the caterpillar for just one example), which definitely don’t scream “DESIGN” at all.

    Okay.

  • TinnyWhistler

    It also screams evolution. It depends on whether you assume a designer or not. As several people have already pointed out.

  • Cy

    Of course this is true in any religion that depends upon these foundational texts for their theology. In Christianity’s case, the problem is profound: if God did not create the world in the way stated, God did not create the Garden of Eden. If there was no Garden of Eden, there was no Adam and Eve. If there was no Adam and Eve, there was no ‘Original Sin.’ And, without that, Christianity falls apart. I am not Christian. I think Original Sin is ludicrous. But if Christianity wants to be a part of the conversation, they had better embrace science without fear or risk becoming irrelevant in any way. You can’t guilt anyone into Original Sin if the sin story is false.

  • I’d just like to know, what it is about the scientific consensus view of the origin of species that people find so displeasing? Are christians who believe in evolution… not christians? Are they heretics? Are they in peril for their immortal soul? If so, why?

  • Do you stone gay men? Do you avoid mixed fabrics?

  • John Purssey

    “Unfortunately for Ham, Jesus got it wrong, the mustard seed is not the smallest seed.”
    This is the stupidest thing to say. Have you never heard of hyperbole?I suppose when someone says to a new mother “Yours is the most beautiful baby in the world you will reply “You have got it wrong, I have seen more beautiful babies.” Americans have no sense of irony! Go ahead, make my case (with thanks to Mr Eastwood).

  • John Purssey

    A review of Norbert M. Samuelson, Jewish Faith and Modern Science: On the Death and Rebirth of Jewish Philosophy (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.) contains this interesting observation.

    “… similar problems plague Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and so forth. How do we read these ancient scriptures, which are considered unique revelations and central to the maintenance of their respective religious identities? Samuelson’s argument seems to be “get over it”! Scriptural literalism of our great religious traditions is now implausible. We are going to have to significantly reinterpret our scriptures in light of modern science. It will not be the first time that we have done so either. Jewish philosophy was radically reinterpreted in the medieval period in confrontation with the best science of its time—Aristotelianism—as transmitted largely through Islamic translations and commentaries, and then retransmitted through Jews to Christian scholastics. Samuelson writes of this medieval intellectual ferment:

    For the classical Jewish philosophers, Aristotelianism suggested a necessary universe that admitted no room for a creating deity, while the Stoicism suggested a chance universe that admitted no possibility of purpose or meaning. Most classical Jewish philosophers opted for a form of Platonism that reconciled differences between the Aristotelian and the Stoic and introduced a new and unique way of understanding the nature of both the creator and his creation. However, no modern Jewish philosopher can simply accept the traditional interpretation of creation on purely textual grounds. That interpretation of the classical Jewish texts depends on a science that no longer has any authority as truth. What is required of Jewish philosophy is that it reexamines its dearest conclusions in the light of radically different modern science (54).

    One option for scriptural interpretation that Samuelson does not explore is that the Bible is a rich source of archetypal stories. In this approach, the conflicts and dynamics between the characters in the Bible are psychologically profound, if not literally true.”

  • John Purssey

    I think it is displeasing to those sorts of Christians because they have inherited an understanding that the Bible is to be understood literally, and as a Book of Rules (Viz Jethro Tull, Aqualung, Wind Up) and that it is effectively written by God and it must contain timeless truths that apply to all cultures (reflecting a Hellenistic view of a distant unchanging God, rather than a Hebrew relational being); and that this understanding is threatened by the revelations of science and, what is probably worse for them, undermines the authority and control they have over their religious communities with the corollary that people are allowed to think for themselves rather than take what their religious authorities say as “gospel truth.”

  • John Purssey

    It’s not that God is unwilling or unable to say what She means, but simply that humans hold the literalism blindfolds to their eyes and the literalism earmuffs to their ears to avoid seeing and hearing from God.

  • John Purssey

    No, it is all subjective.

  • ollie

    The Hebrew Book of Books leave many open questions that can not be answered. The God(s) have always existed. What is always? The Bible does not explain when the universe was created, yet angels had to have existed before the creation of life on earth. I have my own thoughts on these things, but that is not my comment for the day.

    Whether one believes in Creation, either Old or Young; or some evolutionary start. We need to remember that in order for any of them to work we have to rely on faith. For there is not enough good solid evidence to say this is how it happened! There are no “thus saith the Lord” in the evidence books one way or the other.

  • Hrafn

    But any man’s interpretation of that Word, including Ken Ham’s, may well not “stand the test of time.”

    I would also note that Young Earth Creationists frequently apply quite heavy “peer pressure” of their own, including the threat of firing to academics that don’t toe the Young Earth line.

  • Hrafn

    Yes, I’m aware of the Vitamin C pseudogene argument. It’s part of a class of arguments which are dealt with in some of the links I gave at the end of the piece.

    Yes, but the counter-argument, “quite a few pseudogenes have turned out to be functional, and we’re discovering more all the time”, is incredibly flimsy, in that:

    (i) It does not even attempt to show that this argument applies to the Vitamin C pseudogene specifically; and
    (ii) it makes no attempt to quantify whether the “quite a few” are a significant proportion of the number of pseudogenes currently identified (a class that is also subject to new discoveries).

    The vitollogenin pseudogene is another example (one of many) of alleged “junk DNA” which has actually been found to have some plausible use. It’s frankly unscientific to call DNA “junk.”

    I would point out that it was you who brought up the term “junk DNA”, making this argument an obvious strawman. Yes, “junk DNA” is an informal (and thus “unscientific”) label, which is why the formal scientific literature tends to use more rigorously-defined terminology.

    I would however point out that the flaw of being informal, unrigorous, and thus unscientific applies to the entire output of the Disco ‘Tute’s Evolution News and Views blog, as well as the outputs of William (“Written in Jello”) Dembski, Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, et al.

    Here’s one simple proposed model for the Vitamin C pseudogene …

    Has this model been subjected to (independent) peer review? Is your friend not-yet-Doctor Jonathan McLatchie an expert in the field of pseudogene evolution (what is his thesis topic incidentally)? I ask this because most Disco ‘Tute talking heads, and particularly most ENV bloggers, aren’t experts in the field they pontificate on.

  • Hrafn

    I would point out that “full of information” is another bald assertion, as nobody has ever attempted to calculate the Complex Specified Information content of any “intricate, sophisticated macro and micro systems/processes”.

    Dembski (and Meyer’s retread of his argument) simply engage in a bunch of informal, non-specific philosophical waffle on the subject, and then assumed that it must be really really big.

    Oh and please tell me what the rigorous, and thus potentially-scientific, method is for measuring “telic orientation”? ‘I know it when I see it’ (‘it’s obvious’, or similar informal argument) would be about as scientific as the infamous ‘Time Cube’.

  • Lark62

    So hyperbole is fine when Jesus is speaking. But hyperbole is unthinkable when the two different authors of Gen 1 and Gen 2 tell contradictory versions of the same story.

    Because reasons.

    Got it. Let’s check the line of people clamoring to sign up to believe what you believe.

  • Barros Serrano

    Trying to settle the debate over evolution with philosophy—or theology—is futile.

    Science wins. The evidence decides it. The evidence entirely supports Darwin’s hypothesis. Evolution by natural selection is well proven. And who could reasonably deny that any valid cladistic group has a common ancestor? The fossil record, morphology and DNA confirm that they do.

    Biblical literalism never yields good fruit. Literalists are more like the Pharisees trying to use Jewish law to indict Jesus.

  • Barros Serrano

    The Genesis Creation account is metaphorical. Likewise the Hindu Creation myth.

    They’re both true if you take them symbolically. The Hindu one is far superior, with much more that in fact does agree with science.

    For anyone to take these literally and to think that they state that the Big Bang or Evolution did not occur, is not thinking rationally.

  • Barros Serrano

    Chimps conduct wars, organize in military units and attack other chimp communities. Young male chimps form rape gangs, and sometimes infant cannibalism gangs.

    And you think they are totally dissimilar to humans? They seem eminently human, really.

    Interestingly the closely related bonobos, S of the Congo River, exemplify the good rather than the evil in human behavior. They are egalitarian, the females are in control, they engage in very little violence.

    They also exemplify human behavior, do they not?

    Humans have to decide, will be be like chimps or like bonobos? We have the capacity to choose between good and evil.

  • I’m sure the counter pressure exists in the relatively small world of Christian education, but I refer to the much more dominant social-economic force.

    No doubt we can misinterpret Scripture, but we must recognize that consistently throughout history the Scriptures have been interpreted as clearly showing God creating in six explicit “evening and the morning” days. This has been how readers of Scripture have always interpreted events. They were not intellectually inferior. Despite various writers attempts to make it sound like some historical Christians have concurred with our modern day, novel interpretation is dishonest. The few, historical “outliers” they cherry pick in no way had modern, evolutionary concepts in mind. We must recognize the novelty of our modern day interpretation and question the obvious break from the historical trend. We must attribute this to something—God’s Word has not changed. Were the Scriptures written only for us? It is clearly the academic peer pressure of our unbelieving age pressuring individuals such as Matt Walsh to look at what God clearly says and make it sound different. It is to say the naked emperor has beautiful clothes. Be honest — it is unbelief.

  • Hrafn

    No doubt we can misinterpret Scripture, but we must recognize that consistently throughout history the Scriptures have been interpreted as clearly showing God creating in six explicit “evening and the morning” days. This has been how readers of Scripture have always interpreted events.

    Except that this is not true! Acceptance of an Old Earth was mainstream Christian understanding in the US from the advent of modern geology in the late 18th/early 19th centuries until the early 1960s. During that period, outside of Seventh Day Adventism, opposition to Evolution came from Old Earth creationists. It was only with the publication of The Genesis Flood in 1961 that Young Earth Creationism jumped from Adventism to mainstream Evangelicalism.

    Of course outside the US, most Christians never had a problem with modern Geology or Evolutionary Biology.

  • The period you mark out, I consider modern. It marks the deviation from the historical trend of interpreting the Divine revelation of creation. God’s Word did not change. Its clarity did not change. Men’s interpretation changed under the influence of speculative science. Myth has slowly supplanted belief in Divine revelation. It is of relatively recent origin when you consider a history of thousands of years. And myth is simply grass.

    The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
    Isaiah 40:8

  • John Purssey

    Gosh. The logical fallacy of truth being determined by majority vote.

    I guess I should have taken Jesus’s advice on casting pearls.

    What literalism will that provoke, I wonder.

  • Hrafn

    Doug, let me put you straight on a few things:

    1) Approximately one and a half centuries of Old Earth acceptance blows your claim of “always” out of the water. Simply labeling this period as “modern” does nothing to change this fact. I would further point out that it is mainstream Evangelicalism’s acceptance of Seventh Day Adventist pseudoscientific fantasies (on the basis of the word of a theologian and a hydraulic engineer), within living memory, that is a modern innovation.

    2) The science that demonstrates that life on Earth is millions of years old, and that the Earth itself is billions of years old is hardly “speculative.” It is based upon massive consilience between a wide range of disparate fields including Phylogenetics, Nuclear Physics, Plate Tectonics, Cosmology, among many others. Rather it is Young Earth’s so-called ‘Creation Science’, that rests upon a foundation of sand, being based upon carefully cherry-picked data:

    based on scattering mistakes, omissions, and exceptions against general truths that anybody familiar with the facts in a general way can not possibly dispute.

    (To use the words of a prominent paleontologist to George McCready Price, the Adventist inventor of modern Young Earth Creationism.)

    Augustine of Hippo, one of the most prominent of the Church Fathers, anticipated YEC:

    Often, a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances, … and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.

    (Addendum: you may also want to take a look at my later post on Biblical Literalism, Heliocentricism, Martin Luther and Joshua.)

  • Hrafn

    Of course if we’re going to go down the Biblical Literalism route, shouldn’t we also reject Heliocentricism? Martin Luther certainly did on that basis:

    There is talk of a new astrologer [Nicolaus Copernicus] who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must . . . invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.

  • @EstherOReilly

    You keep bringing up Dembski’s model, but at no point in this thread have I said that I think his model is ideal, or that I think Meyer has perfectly understood the best way to model an inference to the best explanation.

  • Hrafn

    Esther O’Reilly:

    1) The Casey Luskin article that you linked to in defense of ID’s purported richness as a field makes clear that Dembski’s CSI claims (they are hardly a “model”) provide a substantial part of the basis for ID’s claims, as this particularly spammy quote from it makes clear:

    The highly specified, tightly integrated, hierarchical arrangements of molecular components and systems within animal body plans also suggest intelligent design. This is, again, because of our experience with the features and systems that intelligent agents — and only intelligent agents — produce. Indeed, based on our experience, we know that intelligent human agents have the capacity to generate complex and functionally specified arrangements of matter — that is, to generate specified complexity or specified information. Further, human agents often design information-rich hierarchies, in which both individual modules and the arrangement of those modules exhibit complexity and specificityspecified information as defined in Chapter 8. Individual transistors, resistors, and capacitors in an integrated circuit exhibit considerable complexity and specificity of design. Yet at a higher level of organization, the specific arrangement and connection of these components within an integrated circuit requires additional information and reflects further design.

    Conscious and rational agents have, as part of their powers of purposive intelligence, the capacity to design information-rich parts and to organize those parts into functional information– rich systems and hierarchies. (p. 366)

    (Emphasis mine)

    2) Lacking Dembski’s CSI claims, what is your basis for claiming that the presence of “a whole bunch of intricate, sophisticated macro and micro systems/processes full of information” is in some way surprising or indicative of “DESIGN” (emphasis in original)? Orthodox Information Theory would seem to see no surprise in the creation of vast amounts of information through mutation and recombination (and its systematic pruning through Natural Selection, as well as unsystematic loss due to Population Genetics).

  • WisdomLover

    In your opinion.

  • WisdomLover

    “I would suspect that there might be a few philosophies and theologies around that are “objectively” bad, e.g. because they are obviously incoherent, inconsistent or (in the case of theologies) obviously violate the precepts of their sacred texts.”

    Why would Esther need to offer substantiation for her view? You did.

    (I note that the final clause is just another form of inconsistency. Theologians must affirm the precepts of their sacred texts, if they also violate them then their problem is inconsistency.)

    There clearly is, then, at least some standard by which philosophical and theological theories can be rejected as objectively bad.

    Perhaps there are other standards as well that would present themselves as long as we are not in too big a hurry throwing philosophy and theology out the window. It could even be that some of those principles, like the principles of logic, are as much in use by philosophers and theologians as they are by scientists.

    Or is it the other side of the statement that you are hung up on. That there are objectively good philosophies and theologies.

    What if Esther adopted the same view that scientists do: An objectively good theory is one that has not yet been rejected as bad.

  • Hrafn

    WisdomLover:
    This started off with my statement:

    I would also ask which philosophies and theologies we should be applying as “checks and balances” to science, as both fields encompass a constellation of divergent (and often intractably divergent) viewpoints. This would appear to lead to science being as intractably balkanized as philosophy and theology — which is hardly a benefit.

    Eliminating a few philosophies or theologies because they’re blatantly malformed hardly does much to improve the situation.

    I would also point out that it is a lot harder to have a theology objectively “rejected as bad” than a scientific theory falsified. Scripture, through translation, interpretation, conflicting imperatives, etc, gives far greater leeway than empirical data. Why else do you think we have 43,000 Christian denominations (by one estimate)? Do we really want to balkanize sciences into tens of thousands of mutually-incompatible variants?

  • Hrafn

    Then please offer an objective basis for deciding whether Calvinism or Arminianism is the better theology.

    It would seem to me that such assessments would be intractably subjective.

  • It would be easier just to admit you don’t believe God’s Word. Same with Matt Walsh.

    But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29

  • WisdomLover

    I think we have 43000 denominations for two main reasons.

    1. Denominations are organizations that often have geographic limits. There are no Luthern Church, Missouri Synod churches in Canada, just as there are no Lutheran Church, Canada churches in America. Though the two denominations agree on all significant doctrinal points.

    2. Many individual churches are non-denominational. Each and every one of those churches is treated as its own denomination for purposes of making that list of 43000. This is in spite of the fact that in the vast majority of cases, you’ll find their doctrinal views to be largely the same.

    There are more like 20 actual, significant, doctrinal differences of opinion among Christian churches that turn on the interpretation of Scripture.

    And there are a number of doctrines that all these churches agree with as definitive. For example, the full Deity of Christ. Anyone can deny that doctrine, if they would like. And of course, they are free to call themselves anything thet would like. But if a church body denies it, whatever they may call themselves and whatever else they might be, they are not a Christian curch body.

  • Illithid

    In my youth, I behaved a lot like a Bonobo. But now my wife would disapprove.

  • Barros Serrano

    Yes, indeed the bonobos use their tongues to maintain peace…

    Perhaps we could adapt this behavior for humans, replace the sex with handing out nectarines or something.

  • WoodbinePhilly

    This is a valid against a very specific branch of white evangelical theology built in the last two centuries: biblical inerrancy. I grew up Christian and never heard this argument (Christianity is dependent on a literal Genesis) until I became an adult, simply because it exists only in a small population of American White Evangelical Christianity. Catholicism does not make this argument, nor do Methodism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Anglican, Episcopalian, and the majority of Christians do not believe it. Christianity doesn’t fall apart without a literal interpretation of Genesis. Biblical inerrancy falls apart, which is fine, because it was formed to preserve the political power of slaveholders and their descendants.

  • TinnyWhistler

    I’m obliged to point out that it has seeped into various Christian traditions that didn’t used to require it. I grew up Presbyterian and I certainly heard quite a few arguments along the lines that Cy makes. Members of the church hosted seminars on “proving” Genesis, asking questions about it in sunday school led to accusations of not “believ[ing] that the Bible is the Holy Word of God” and practicing sharing the faith in small groups usually involved the person playing the non-Christian to proclaim “I’m an Evolutionist so I don’t believe the Bible”

    TL;DR, it’s seeping into those denominations, at least certain Presbyterian churches.

  • TinnyWhistler

    “It would be easier just to admit you don’t believe God’s Word.”
    There it is! Always easier to just accuse the other person of being Not A Real Christian than to engage with what they’re saying.

    Why do you choose to apply Jesus’ words to someone asking Him about marriage after resurrection to a creationism debate? Could you please explain your thinking? Or is it just a cherry-picked zinger at someone you disagree with?

  • TinnyWhistler

    Heck, just go back to the whole “Flat earth with sky dome keeping the “waters above” at bay” model of the planet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firmament

  • kyuss

    Ken Ham is a laughable idiot – as is anyone who believes in creationism, young or old.

  • Not cherry picking or accusing anyone of not being a Christian. Jesus was addressing the Sadducees “who say there is no resurrection.” They denied it for at least two reasons Jesus mentioned:
    1. They didn’t know the Scriptures.
    2. They didn’t know the power of God.
    Both these reasons apply generally to those who deny the literal six day creation.

    “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them.” Exodus 20:11a

  • TinnyWhistler

    Ok, sorry. I’m used to people using “admit you don’t believe God’s Word” as a thinly veiled accusation of heresy, apostacy, or otherwise not-correct-Christianing.

    So let’s examine your claims:
    1. They don’t know the Scriptures
    You’re claiming that because someone disagrees with you, they don’t believe the Bible and don’t know the Scriptures. You’re convinced of your own correctness to the point of accusing someone else of not believing God’s Word.

    2. They don’t know the power of God.
    You claim that people adjusting their understanding of what the Bible says about the origin and development of the world is a sign that they’re rejecting the Divine revelation of creation. You seem to imply that God CANNOT have inspired the various bits of the Bible in such a way that it would be consistently understandable to people throughout history.

    The creation account speaks of a “firmament” that God placed over the earth separating the waters above from the earth below. For thousands of years, Jews and, later, Christians interpreted that to mean a solid dome of some sort that the sun, moon, and stars were stuck to and moved on. During the Renaissance, Christian scholars began to reinterpret the firmament to NOT mean a solid dome or sphere surrounding the earth but rather to mean something else. I think John Calvin proposed that it might mean clouds.

    Were these people wrong to throw out the idea of a solid firmament just because people had thought there was a solid roof to the Earth for thousands of years? Or is God’s Word flexible enough to make sense to both shepherds thousands of years ago who didn’t know the earth was round and to astronauts seeing the Earth from the Moon?

    I know that there are Christians who still believe that the Earth is flat based on the Bible, but they’re thankfully in the VERY small minority. In general, Christians have accepted that their ancient interpretation of the firmament being solid and of numerous descriptions of tall places being able to see to everywhere on earth indicating a flat planet is wrong and tend to interpret those bits of the Bible metaphorically.

  • Yes, I do have complete confidence in a literal six day creation. That is because my understanding is not novel and finds solid confirmation outside the bias of our age.

    Some things in Scripture are obscure and lack expounding. You mention such topics. Other things are crystal clear. The literal six days of creation is one such example. How could God have been any clearer? How could things like the Sabbath have been enforced apart from this definite clarity?

    The only reason the literal six day creation is disputed is because it is challenged by speculative modern day science and many are intimidated by modern intellectuals who do not fear God. They are intimidated into doubting God’s Word. Be honest.

  • Hrafn

    1) There are only 195 countries (therefore a minimum of at least 220 denominational groups). Beyond that, a fairly large number of countries would not have enough Christians (e.g. Muslim-majority countries) or enough Christians of a given denominational group (e.g. there are only a dozen or so independent Orthodox churches), to merit a national denomination.

    2) ‘Non-denominational’ churches are mainly a US phenomenon. Also, given their explicit title, I rather doubt that they would be counted as (separate) “denominations.” It is far more likely that they’d be put into a single bucket.

    3) I would note that there are in fact numerous Lutheran Denominations in the US in addition to the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, North American Lutheran Church, Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Apostolic Lutheran Church of America, etc.

    4) Non-trinitarian sects and individuals have been around since Christianity began. Isaac Newton (often placed front and center as a historic Christian-who-was-a-scientist) was non-trinitarian.

    5) In any case, as our ever-opinionated but allergic-to-substantiation friend Esther never got around to establishing how theolog(ies) might act as “checks and balances” on science, it is difficult to ascertain which theological differences may have significantly alter the sciences they are impacting.

    6) Even if I accept your “20 actual, significant, doctrinal differences”, that is still 19-too-many for scientific consilience.

    7) And of course none of this analysis even takes into account non-Christian theologies, which most likely won’t even accept “the full Deity of Christ”.

  • WisdomLover

    My comment there was directed to John Purssey’s unintentionally ironic and self-stultifying claim that all philosophy and theology is subjective.

    The claim is itself a philosophical one. It is also one of those claims that can only be true if it is false.

    My remark that what he said is just his subjective opinion brings that out. The only way for him to so much as dispute that remark is to say “no, it’s not just my opinion.” That is, he has to effectively make the claim that that’s how things objectively are, thus contradicting his own claim.

  • John Purssey

    Of course, your subjective opinion is that I was not aware of the irony of my claim. My claim is that that I was: perhaps you lack sufficient subtlety to take that into account. In any case, there is no way that your comment can be taken to be objective. We build interpretive frameworks, a hermeneutic of life so to speak, and unlike the domain of science which can have some claim to objectivity, the domain of theology and philosophy are human societal constructs to find meaning and purpose to existence, which is something that science is unable to do.

  • John Purssey

    Again, the illusion that sacred texts can be understood objectively, when the evidence is that sacred texts are subject to multiple contradictory interpretations and emphases, and that while the mundane content may at least be theoretically verified – e.g.Jesus did live a human life – the important claims about who we are (e.g created in the image of God), what is meaning of life, and how should we live – cannot be determined by objective means.

  • Hrafn

    It is not unreasonable to suggest that fields that lack much in the way of objective standards and criteria, are subjective.

    I would suggest that this would be the viewpoint of many (most?) rational observers, and thus not just “in [John’s] opinion.”

    In any case all of this nit-picking is a red herring and irrelevant to the root argument of whether the purported “checks and balances of philosophy and theology” are beneficial or even practicable.

    Airy and unsubstantiated assertions that “There is such a thing as objectively good and bad philosophy. Ditto for theology” do nothing to illuminate this topic.

    Nor does diving down the rabbit hole of whether the claim that philosophy and theology “is all subjective” is itself a subjective opinion.

    Lacking comprehensive and practicable standards for assessing the objective merits of specific philosophies and theologies, and identifiable benefits of applying them to science, this whole line of argument is a blatant non-starter.

  • John Purssey

    “Even if I accept your “20 actual, significant, doctrinal differences”, that is still 19-too-many for scientific consilience.”
    I presume you mean “consensus”.
    And as an addendum, Consensus does not equate with truth. Kuhn’s view in his “The nature of Scientific Revolutions” is that established science opinion continues until some members of that scientific discipline find enough evidence for a new paradigm to convince the rest of the scientific community to accept their new paradigm. Science is a community enterprise and some naively think that the constructions of science theory are objective independent of the science community.

    An amusing anecdote is that of a retiring Professor of Medicine. At his last lecture he told his students “I have two confessions to make. The first is that half of what I have taught you is wrong. The second is that I don’t know which half it is.”

  • WisdomLover

    1) You yourself gave one objective standard of philosophical and theological theory. So your contention that there are no such standards is not only untrue, but inconsistent.

    2) If you don’t think it’s just John’s opinion that everything in philosophy and theology is subjective, then you are saying that that’s an objectively true statement. That statement is itself a philosophical statement, so if true it is subjective.

    3) It is not nit-picking to show that your arguments are shot through with contradiction. It’s, in fact, a decisive refutation of your views.

  • WisdomLover

    Build all the frameworks you like, the claim that every philosophical statement is subjective is itself a philosophical statement and has the property of being true if and only if it is false.

  • phillip mutchell

    Mate it was written by Moses and his disciples – read the heading.

  • phillip mutchell

    Check out Klaus Nurnberger – Informed by science involved by Christ on Play books; a theologian who’s actually trying to make Christian faith possible; against that which as presented by Evangelicals (and particularly those deliciously demented in America) makes Christian faith the moral equivalent of apartheid, an adherence to a philosophy which serves to enforce privilege and the division which upholds it. He’s reminiscent of Austin Farrer who beautifully expressed the truth of evolution with his simple observation ‘God makes things which make themselves’ which is the real wonder.
    The author of this post insists people are ‘intelligent’ who waste thousands of other people’s dollars to prove a round earth was utterly submerged in water – I think he meant crafty, but certainly more subtil than us other beasts.

  • WisdomLover

    1) No idea what your point is there.

    2) What you rather doubt is quite irrelevant. Each non-denom is counted as its own denomination by the study that generated that number. Even if they were a U.S. only phenomenon (which they are not) the number is not unreasonable.

    3) Yes there are multiple Lutheran denominations in America. That does not imply that there are way more than 20 major differences in thought in Christianity.

    4) I have little doubt that non-Trinitarians have been around for a long time. So what? That hardly makes them Christian. They also consist of a very small proportion of people who call themselves Christian.

    5) Can’t follow your grammar there.

    6) So science always has only one opinion on any subject? Is that what you are saying?

    7) Why do I have to account for non-Christian theologies when making a comment about the number of Christian denominations?

  • WisdomLover

    There is no book that is not capable of multiple contradictory interpretations. You’re not saying anything special or important here.

  • phillip mutchell

    Consider friend at best the God of your Bible has taken about 2000 years to enact this judgement and still hasn’t despite promising in Ezekiel that when he says he’ll do something he won’t delay because such delay has promoted doubt and skepticism among his people. This at the very least should alert you to the possibility that the theological interpretation of any text is culturally dependent – there is no atemporal gnosis; the purpose of theology is to render the biblical word relevant – thus the doctrine of absolute predestination fitted beautifully with an emerging Capitalism which justified the economic and social injustice it produced by reference to God’s absolute divine decree; just as American slavery was ‘justified’ by reference to Ham, and the opposing voices were then considered ‘unchristian’. An adherence to asinine idiocy renders Christian faith impossible to any who can’t compartmentalise, but too many can and so their Christianity is coke and whores and thank God for Grace – she was the best -:)

  • Hrafn

    ObfuscationLover:

    1) My point was that national churches does not adequately explain the large number of denominations.

    2) Citation please for your claim as to the basis for the calculation of this figure.

    3) Citation please for your repeated claims that there are only “20 major differences in thought in Christianity.”

    4) One individual’s, or even one sect’s, opinion on what does or does not constitute Christianity, is just that: an opinion. It wasn’t that long ago that it was common for Protestants to refuse to acknowledge Catholics as real Christians. Regardless, as the original claim was “Ditto for theology”, not “Ditto for Christian theology”, this is irrelevant. I simply used Christians as an example as I could come up with a (large) number for their number of denominations.

    5) A religiously significant, or alternately, insignificant difference in doctrine does not necessarily equate to a scientifically significant or insignificant difference, respectively. As Esther has given no details as to how theology should impact science, this issue is particularly inscrutable.

    6) Science is about resolving differences of opinion through the means of empirical testing (which takes us right back to the start of this argument). So yes, allowing unresolvable differences due to differing theologies is a really bad idea.

    7) “Why do I have to account for non-Christian theologies when making a comment about the number of Christian denominations?” Because I would expect any rational commenter to read the thread for context. And that context was “Ditto for theology”, not “Ditto for Christian theology.” And I would point out that adherents of non-Christian religions also engage in scientific research, so if we want “checks and balances of philosophy and theology”, this will surely include those of non-Christian theologies.

  • Hrafn

    Possibly because nobody is suggesting that we take interpretations of The Hobbit as offering “checks and balances” on science.

    Differing interpretations of books only starts to become an issue if you want to start basing major decisions upon them — as many conservative Christians insist we should do with the Bible.

    Relegate sacred texts to the field(s) of Ancient Literature, and we’d be happy for you to reinterpret them to your heart’s content.

  • Hrafn

    1) I did not state “lacks any objective standards and criteria”, but rather “lack much in the way of objective standards and criteria”. The “one objective standard” I suggested was such a low hurdle as to be virtually irrelevant. Your first point is thus tendentious nitpicking aimed at obfuscating the weakness of Esther’s claims.

    If you don’t think it’s just John’s opinion that everything in
    philosophy and theology is subjective, then you are saying that that’s
    an objectively true statement.

    2) Demonstrably false. Being a widespread (and easily defensible) opinion does not make that opinion “an objectively true statement”. It does however have more weight than “just [some random blog commenter’s] opinion.”

    3) Arguing details that are irrelevant to the wider context of the issue that is under discussion is the very definition of “nit-picking.”

    My viewpoint is that:

    1) It is not the case that applying the “checks and balances of philosophy and theology” to science is beneficial or even practicable.

    2) There is no substantive criteria for judging that “There is such a thing as objectively good and bad philosophy. Ditto for theology.”

    Nothing that you have said is even relevant to these views, let alone “decisive refutation” to them.

  • John Purssey

    Judaism does not read original sin into the primeval stories of Genesis (or Origin as per their Septuagint translation). The idea of original sin was formulated by Augustine, 4th century CE, based on his interpretation of Paul’s writings.

  • John Purssey

    The truth of neither Hindu myth or the Jewish or Christian interpretations of the primeval Genesis myths depends on any superficial similarity to a scientific explanation of the development of the universe.
    It is not that those who take the accounts literally are not thinking rationally, but they are confusing the knowledge domains of science and the aspect of religion that wrestles with the meaning of our existence. This is true of any person, regardless of their faith or denial of it that tries to argue the truth or error of faith texts on the basis of their scientific accuracy.

  • WisdomLover

    Carry on my friend. Secure in the knowledge the contradictions aren’t so bad.

    BTW also secure in the knowledge that special pleading is super convincing (“Being a widespread (and easily defensible) opinion does not make that opinion “an objectively true statement”. It does however have more weight than “just [some random blog commenter’s] opinion.””…you wrote it random blog commenter, not me.)

  • WisdomLover

    Philosophy and Theology are based on sacred texts. Interesting.

    Sounds like you’re trying a guilt by association argument here.

    What you don’t seem to get is that scientists also communicate with texts. What on earth do you think peer-reviewed journal articles are? Those can’t be misinterpreted (by mistake or even willfully)?

    The ‘problem of interpretation’ used against religion is a classic example of a rather sophomoric use of the fallacy of special pleading. Leave it to earnest high schoolers and get serious.

    Well as I said in the other comment. Carry on.

    (I’ll also reply to your other recent comment too. After that, I’m just going to let you have the last word.)

  • WisdomLover

    Ah!!! The Argumentum Ad Nominem. It always comes out when my interlocuor’s arguments are in shambles.

    1) Sure it does. It doesn’t explain all of them, and I never claimed it did. BTW, there is also a parallel denominational break based on language. Did you know that list also contains many Roman Catholic denominations? How can this be? Because they say the Mass in different languages. Just so you know, I’m also not trying to explain all denominational differences based on language differences. If you want to know what I think is the biggest single reason for the number of denominations, I think it’s the non-denoms.

    2) Oh please. You’re the one who trotted out the number in the first place. Feel free to use the gift that Al Gore gave you and find whether you know what you’re talking about or not.

    3) Ditto.

    4) I’m well aware that there is a larger argument here, but I was talking specifically about the number you trotted out. You said that the reason there are so many different denominations is that there are so many different interpretations of the Bible. That’s just not the case. Most reasons for denominational distinction have very little to do with Biblical interpretation. You are wrong about what you said there.

    5) Who said that a religiously significant difference in doctrine necessarily equates to a scientifically significant difference? I would have thought that you, of all people, would think that at least sometimes religion and science talk about different things with little overlap.

    6) Yet scientific differences exist that remain quite intractable, even though scientists holding different views often rub along nicely together (though sometimes they don’t). Go ahead and tell me about the one true interpretation of Quantum Physics any time you would care to.

    7) See item 4.

    OK. That’s my last comment for now. Feel free to take the last word.

  • Barros Serrano

    It’s not that they depend on that “similarity”; the point is that the similarity exists, that metaphorically you can take either account to be true scientifically, especially the Hindu one. Life came about by a deity “stirring the ocean of milk”… sounds like molecules coming together to form life in an agitated primeval ocean, no?

    Me, I think that some of those ancient thinkers were very intelligent and perceptive, and hit on the truth though they hadn’t the scientific language with which to describe it. Also keep in mind that until recently science, magic and religion were one. In many societies, even our “advanced” one, the untangling of these is still not complete, nor perhaps should it be…

  • TinnyWhistler

    Aaaaand the firmament and flatness of the earth were considered crystal clear once upon a time. And still are by some people. Look outside! Clearly the earth is flat.

    “Some things in Scripture are obscure and lack expounding.”
    They were clear enough to be definitive before Jewish scholars started listening to the Greeks regarding the shape of the earth. Geocentrism was clear enough to be definitive until Christians started listening to the scientists of the day. Young Earth was clear enough to be definitive until geology took off as a field of study.

    “The literal six days of creation is one such example. How could God have been any clearer?”
    Perhaps when creating the Earth, God could have put a BIT more effort into making it not look super old. That might have been clearer. But for whatever reason, He apparently chose to make it to look old.

    “How could things like the Sabbath have been enforced apart from this definite clarity?”
    What? It seems like your arguing that God can’t command people to do things without having first made some symbolic gesture. He didn’t do so for most of his other commands! God didn’t create a “father and mother” for himself to honor before commanding people to honor theirs, God didn’t create another god for Himself to worship before commanding people to worship Him, God didn’t need to work for 6 days and rest on the 7th before commanding people to do the same. Exodus doesn’t require that the 7 days be literal, it could have been a metaphor without changing the point of the text. Don’t put so many limits on the ways God can communicate through the Bible. Isn’t He more powerful than your understanding?

    The only reason the literal flat earth or the earth-centered universe is disputed is because it is challenged by speculative modern day science and many are intimidated by modern intellectuals who do not fear God. They are intimidated into doubting God’s Word. Be honest.

  • TinnyWhistler, if you mistake the world for being much older than it really is, when God clearly tells you different, that’s God’s fault?

    But as for Jewish Law, in Numbers 15:32-36 it is recorded:

    “Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him.

    Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.

    How could the man know it was the Sabbath he was violating?

  • TinnyWhistler

    Doug, if you mistake the world for being round when God clearly tells you different it’s God’s fault? You said earlier that those bits of the Bible are unclear and not expounded upon, isn’t that just your interpretation?

    God had told the Israelites which day was the Sabbath years before the incident in Numbers took place. They all knew which day it was. I really don’t know what relevance this has to the conversation.

  • John Purssey

    It is your framework of the myth of objectivity that you need to examine. It reflects a remarkable lack of self-awareness.

  • John Purssey

    All interpretations are human interpretations. Please translate that old use of “man” to its current connotation of “human”.

  • WisdomLover

    Is my framework objectively mistaken?

    Or is that just your opinion?

  • Hrafn

    Merely seeking ‘truth in advertising’ — as the cognitive dissonance between your moniker and your behavior is somewhat glaring.

    1) It would only explain a small minority of the thousands of denominations. It is thus more irrelevant nit-picking.

    2) The 43,000 figure was the first thing that turned up on Googling the issue. On closer examination, it is unclear where the figure came from or how it was calculated (and I will happily disavow it if a figure with better provenance is proffered). This means that I am extremely skeptical of your claim to know that it includes non-denominational churches as each being a denomination.

    Lacking a citation we have no evidence that the figure includes them, and it is therefore perfectly reasonable for me to reject this bald assertion.

    3) Likewise lacking a citation we have no evidence that your “20 major differences in thought in Christianity” is correct.

    Further complicating this issue, lacking the context for this number, it is unclear whether the “20 major differences” are dependent (leading to a maximum of 20 doctrinally-different denominations) or independent, allowing the possibility of over a million doctrinally-different denominations (assuming each difference was independent and binary-choice — 2 to the power of 20).

    4) Your reply is undercut both by (i) my point (3) above and (ii) by the fact that it fails to address my point that there are non-trinitarian interpretations of the Bible (regardless of whether you choose to accept those interpretations as “Christian” or not), that reject your doctrinally-“definitive … full Deity of Christ.”

    5) This whole argument is about whether theology can act as beneficial “checks and balances” on science. This means that the standard for whether a theological difference is major is not its affect on religion but its effect on science. For example, the belief in the full Deity of Christ may be very important religiously, but it is unclear what its scientific ramifications (if any) would be.

    6) Quantum mechanics is still at the bleeding edge of theoretical physics, and an enormous amount of effort is being expended in efforts to resolve these issues. Theological differences in contrast remain intractable over centuries and even millennia.

    7) Your reply (4) does nothing to address non-Christian theologies (being explicitly about “different interpretations of the Bible”). It therefore is irrelevant to my 7th point.

  • Hrafn

    I neither stated nor implied that philosophy is “based on sacred texts.” The fact that theology is so-based is hardly controversial.

    Scientific writing is both more rigorous and explicit in its wording than sacred texts. Further, if an issue is not explicitly covered by the text, it is simply a matter of performing further research and publishing it. You need not attempt to divine the answer from pronouncements on other, only tenuously-related, issues (I would note that the Bible makes no explicit mention of abortion, let alone an explicit prohibition of the practice). Also as the most relevant research is recent (older research being frequently superseded) it is not uncommon that the author is available for clarification — unlike most sacred texts.

    I am well aware of the “fallacy of special pleading”. It requires that the exception lack a justification. I have just distinguished between modern scientific writing and sacred texts. And as that distinction should be blatantly obvious to any rational and honest commenter, I would ask you whether your accusation was irrational or dishonest?

  • Hrafn

    “Carry on”? Why should I bother?

    All you seem to doing is engaging in a form of argumentum ad nauseam on peripheral issues, in an apparent attempt to obfuscate the vacuity of Esther’s original statements.

    Why should I pay further attention to your overflowing verbal diarrhea of unsubstantiated assertions, ‘replies’ that have little to do with what I said, wilful-misinterpretation and false accusation?
    If your comments were testimony in a court hearing, I’d move to have the whole thing stricken as: (i) assumes facts not in evidence, (ii) non-responsive, and/or (iii) irrelevant to the issue under adjudication.

    As Arthur said of Camelot in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, “let’s not go [there]. It is a silly place.”

    (Oh, and please look up the definition of “Special Pleading.” My point (2) above asked for no exception to a rule, therefore was not an example of that fallacy.)

  • Hrafn

    Consilience: The fact of ‘jumping together’ or agreeing; coincidence, concurrence; said of the accordance of two or more inductions drawn from different groups of phenomena.

    This means that different scientific fields, or threads of research, should come up with consistent answers to the same questions. Unlike different theologies.

  • Hrafn

    Assuming that it is the same Matt Walsh, I just read elsewhere that he’s Catholic (albeit conservatively so). Therefore acceptance of science’s overwhelming evidence of an Old Earth (or for that matter Evolution) is a completely orthodox viewpoint for him to hold, within Catholic theology.

    Claims of “peer pressure” are thus completely spurious.

  • John Purssey

    I think that although the ancient texts use descriptions that coincidentally have some similarity to the odd point of scientific cosmology, the purpose of the metaphors is to understand and talk about the important truths of human existence, rather than the mundane aspects of the formation of (parts of) the universe. That is where the ancient thinkers were intelligent and perceptive, and the ancient texts are a distillation of their thinking.

  • John Purssey

    Ok. Thanks. I will add that to my vocabulary.

    I would expect that consilience would be looked for within a scientific discipline, but different disciplines are different communities asking different questions.

    I would not expect different theologies/philosophies to have consilience. The answers to the questions of the meaning and purpose of existence and how should we live are strongly influenced by the questioners received and changing culture. Among the major religions the expression of what in Christianity is called the Golden Rule could be regarded as consilience. Applying literalism to metaphors and symbols, as fundamentalists do, will necessarily result in disagreement.

    A Buddhist friend regards Jesus/Christ as a Bodhisattva – both symbolise compassion.

    It is interesting that (universal) history also lacks consilience.

  • John Purssey

    Just your subjective choice of the myth of objectivity.

  • WoodbinePhilly

    Super fair. I’m Presbyterian, and while it contrasts with our governing documents and founders, there are movements within Presbyterianism to schism in favor of inerrancy. My main issue is with the critique from outside the faith that Christianity is defined by inerrancy, and should therefore be disregarded. It’s a strawman. Fundamentalism or American White Evangelicalism define themselves by it as a doctrine, and they can live or die by it if they want, but Biblical literalism is not a historic claim of Christianity, nor does it represent a majority of Christians. It drives me nuts when people say that the only Christianity is the one that holds to creationism, when the POPE doesn’t even hold that view.

  • TinnyWhistler

    My main point is that it’s not “just” the Baptists and Pentacostals anymore. It’s very likely that people have bumped into this attitude no matter the denomination of the Christians around them, as it seems to have been growing like a weed. Many Christians who would not consider themselves to believe the Bible inerrant still make arguments that they’ve absorbed from the fundies, so it doesn’t surprise me that the perception of how widespread this “doctrine” is is wider than it “should” be.

  • Hrafn

    It might be “easier”, but it would also be grossly inaccurate.

    A more accurate description would be to point out that Walsh, along with the Catholic Church (of which he is a member) and the majority of Christianity worldwide, reject Biblical Literalism.

    Setting up your own interpretation as being definitively “God’s Word” is hubris so large that it borders upon blasphemy.

    It is also a path that leads to obvious argumentum ad absurdem, unless you are prepared to also accept Geocentricism and a Flat Earth for Literalist reasons.

  • WisdomLover

    Is it objectively true that objectivity is a myth? Or is that your subjective opinion?

    (Because your view is self-defeating, we can keep doing this all day.)

  • John Purssey

    Of course we can keep doing this ad infinitum. Objectivity is a faith position and impossible to verify objectively.

  • WisdomLover

    Is that objectively true?

    I’ll grant your view isn’t a faith position.

    It doesn’t rise to that level. It’s incoherent gibberish, being true if and only if false.

    Induction, by now, has taught me that you truly do not understand that that is a fatal flaw, and it really makes conversation of any kind impossible.

    I won’t be replying further.

    You may have the last word to say something that, by your own principle, is just your subjective opinion.

  • John Purssey

    Just love how you twist logic until it isn’t. Thanks for the amusement.

  • bobf

    There is no way to measure 24 hours in the first 3 days as the sun and moon are not created yet. The Bible gives clues. The expansion of a singularity is a quantum event and thus there must be an observer. Science itself leads to God

  • bobf

    See my recent post. The Bible says there was a beginning. There was a beginning. Days mean staging or epoch since a 24 hour measure is clearly denied.My denial of 24 hours is literal

  • Barros Serrano

    I taught the undergrad course Intro to Physical Anthropology, and knew that there were Christians and Creationists in the class. To avoid conflict, I began the first class by saying, This is a course about science. It has nothing to do with religion or Christianity, neither to confirm or deny them. People think that the only choices in this matter are, “God created everything, poof”, or “Atheism”. I then wrote on the board, “God created evolution.” See? There’s a 3rd option not even discussed, and I’ll bet there are more. But we are not here for that. We are here to investigate the evidence for human evolution, what is known about human adaptations and prehistory, and following that everyone can then determine where they think all this leads us, and conclude what you will, in favor of one of these (now) 3 options or another one I’ve not thought of.

    That worked, and the Christians behaved themselves and were not disruptive. After the final day of class, 2 women who were fundies and attended a local church whose pastor had warned them not to take my course as I was demon-possessed, came up to me and said, “Understand, we are no less Christian and believe in Jesus same as always, but looking at all this evidence, we cannot any longer deny that evolution is true. You have convinced us.”

    Hallelujah!

  • Barros Serrano

    Those of us who read multiple languages know how difficult translation can be. Meanings can be changed by only very subtle variations or errors.

    Those studying the newly-discovered early versions of the Koran have discovered this… that much of what is taken as the “Word of God” (via Gabriel) to Mohammed in fact is much changed just by changing a few vowels.

    Literalism is a simplistic way of thinking. Things just aren’t that simple.