9/19/2007

BTC #2a: BEYOND THE BOUNDS?

Previously, I proposed that the nature of certain kinds of belief (such as religious belief) is the introduction of an element of fantasy. I then asked, ‘does this place religious belief beyond the bounds of scientific inquiry?’

My short answer was ‘not necessarily, it depends on what we mean.’ Now for a longish discussion!

The first thing we have to do is distinguish between supernatural claims put forward by believers and the (alleged) consequences of those claims. Consider the following claim: “Genesis is a literal account of how the world was created by a supernatural being, Yahweh.” This turns out to be really difficult for science to directly investigate. The clause ‘supernatural being’ is, in essence, a conceptual ‘poison pill’ for the scientist who defines the natural world as the subject of scientific investigation. No matter what evidence the scientist adduces that contradicts the first part of the claim (‘Genesis is a literal account of how the world was created’), the believer has an ‘out’: Yahweh’s supernatural, and so Yahweh’s actions don’t have to follow natural law, and so evidence from the natural world can’t be used to ‘disprove’ either Yahweh’s existence or action. The claim has the curious property of being immune to disproof based on any evidence a scientist could present! As Karl Popper (the sage-looking gentleman on the right) would have said, it is non-falsifiable.

But what about the alleged consequences of that claim? If the Genesis account is held to be literally true, then a host of consequences should follow, consequences in the natural world that are subject to scientific inquiry. And the fact is, a host of alleged consequences of this particular claim have been falsified. Plants didn’t appear on the third day, and then the stars on the fourth day. The heavens and the oceans that surround the dry land aren’t both made of water. Birds don’t appear on earth before cattle. Most importantly, overwhelming evidence contradicts the claim of a 6-day creation. *

Now, does this demonstrate that there is no supernatural being, Yahweh? Not at all, but it does demonstrate that the world revealed by scientific investigation is not consistent with the consequences of the claim of Genesis being ‘a literal account of how the world was created.’ Given sufficient evidence contra the consequences, an intelligent person is free to reject the claim on the absence of any positive evidence in behalf of the claim.

I might add that similar results are associated with most (though not all) supernatural claims, and that in general when we seek confirmation in the natural world of the consequences of supernatural claims we are likely to be disappointed.

Also, while I haven't made this explicit, the distinction between claims and consequences is related to questions about domains. S.J. Gould memorably attempted to define science and religion as 'non-overlapping magisteria' (NOMA). I'm not enamored of NOMA myself; as I think I've demonstrated, there is an area in which they overlap, which is the consequences of claims. Interestingly enough, many IDevotees think so, too, though in their case it's what they feel is an unwarranted intrusion in 'morality and metaphysics.' Hence the diagram below:


Granted that while we can never falsify some supernatural claims, they can in fact be so vitiated by their failure to make any unique predictions that we can exclude them on grounds of parsimony. To put it another way, from the point of view of the scientist, science and its method really is magisterial in the natural realm, but that does not render religion magisterial in the realm of non-science----after all, there are many non-scientific claims which are equally non-falsifiable, but they are not necessarily religious. Besides, science can verify that the realm in which it operates actually exists: religion can hardly do the same.

* Just to clarify: people who emphasize a '6-day creation' are typically talking about six 24-hour days. So-called 'day-age' or 'progressive' creationists often view the 'days' as something other than 24-hour periods, and so my gloss above should not be taken to refer to those versions of creationism---which, through reinterpretation, largely remove Genesis 1 from the set of claims that can be said to have expected consequences that could, in principle, be falsified.

42 comments:

Salt said...

(‘Genesis is a literal account of how the world was created’), the believer has an ‘out’: Yahweh’s supernatural, and so Yahweh’s actions don’t have to follow natural law, and so evidence from the natural world can’t be used to ‘disprove’ either Yahweh’s existence or action.

If Genesis is correct, the proof is everywhere. What you're asking for is evidence from the pot as evidence of a potter.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

You're off-topic, right? The question under discussion is not whether Genesis is correct, but whether or not any evidence from the natural world can gainsay the claim itself.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

Most importantly, overwhelming evidence contradicts the claim of a 6-day creation.

Now, does this demonstrate that there is no supernatural being, Yahweh? Not at all, but it does demonstrate that the world revealed by scientific investigation is not consistent with the consequences of the claim of Genesis being ‘a literal account of how the world was created.’


I am disappointed that you would gloss over as "really difficult for science to directly investigate" a "literal" creation account by trivializing a "6-day" creation account. They are not the same, and the distinctions of old-earth creationist vs young-earth creationist have been pointed out before.

Further, I've noted to you before that cosmologists (scientists) readily investigate "a beginning" to the universe undeterred by any implication of "a Beginner" - i.e. scientists who investigate the natural consequences undeterred by any supernatural claim.

The Genesis creation account can be interpreted as literal creation by God over six sequential ages or epochs of indeterminate duration. I'm sure you know this, and there is no need for science to avoid investigating supernatural claims by citing "six day creation" difficulties.

While that allows time for evolution (amongst other theories) that doesn't a-priori mean that God didn't create mankind as He stated in Genesis. But just because a supernatural claim is made, that doesn't mean biologists should stop trying to figure out what/how God did it.

Get an interlinear bible and a Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon and look up the original Hebrew meanings for the words translated as "day", "there was evening", "there was morning" and "light vs lights". Also study how the 11th and 12th century Hebrew sages interpreted the Hebrew of the Genesis creation account. There is no lexical requirement and little contextual requirement to assume a 24-hour day when "age", "time" or "epoch" are allowed by the Hebrew.

While there are a couple other not-insurmountable theological difficulties introduced by such an interpretation, it has scriptural merit and it avoids the artificial difficulty of "overwhelming contradictory evidence". Scripture (as set down in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) is to be 'rightly divided' and English translations are not to be given undue weight.

Science should play the cards it is dealt and not overly concern itself with avoiding supernatural claims.

Admittedly, all that makes for a bit daunting study and post, but neither science nor scripture ought to be trivialized.

As an example, here is a physicist and Hebrew scholar's view on Genesis 1: Age of the Universe by Dr. Gerald Schroeder.

And it makes a more edifying discussion - for believer and non-believer alike.

ok, < /rant> :)

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Starwind, as I'm sure you know, people who emphasize a '6-day creation' are typically talking about six 24-hour days. Those who aren't use expressions like 'day-age' or 'progressive creationism' etc. to distinguish their views. Tell you what: I'll go back to the original comment and add a footnote to make that clear.

And, while we're on the subject, I don't subscribe to any of those views, either. I view Genesis 1 as a liturgical text which attempts, in part, to assert the supremacy of the Hebrew God. It is neither science nor history, as I see it, but poetry---and rather unlike the older material that immediately follows it in Genesis 2 in a number of ways.

386sx said...

The Genesis creation account can be interpreted as literal creation by God over six sequential ages or epochs of indeterminate duration.

Yeah like one would be about a five second duration and then another one would be maybe about a couple weeks or so.

Besides, science can verify that the realm in which it operates actually exists: religion can hardly do the same.

So have some scientists do it for them. How come religion can have realms but science isn't allowed to verify them? There must be an emprical way that religion thinks it has realms, right? How else would it even have a clue? Shrug!

peak_bagger said...

Scott,

A good post and I agree by and large with your take on the claims of religious belief and their implications/consequences.

Re. NOMA. I was instinctively against this notion for a while too. I wanted to see some overlap because I didn’t want to live a divided world – part of me scientific and part of me religious. It just didn’t inherently make sense. So I would go with a slight overlap as well.

But in discussions with colleagues, I now prefer to think of science and religion as separate but interacting domains. The ground rules of science are too clear (as you mentioned in your post) for any intrusion of science into religion. And too often, religion intrudes into science.

Venn diagrams are useful but I’m going to try to keep the two domains separate and claim that they can positively interact. The implications of science should inform our religious worldview. But I’m not sure anything religious need inform science. That’s a strange statement and it could probably use some parsing.

The main thing for me is to seek coherency within my religious belief, let science speak for itself, and try to discern what implications (e.g. what does the mechanism of evolution tell us about God) science may have for my beliefs.

I don’t claim to be right in the above statements. Still searching and looking for equilibration…

Also, I’m uncomfortable with Starwind’s appeal to Schroeder. I have his book, haven’t read it yet but from what I’ve seen, trying to force science (relativity, etc.) to fit a Biblical interpretation really makes me squeamish. I’m not making claims about Schroeder’s ideas – I just think anytime some tries to push a square through a round hole, it ends up getting ugly for both. Let science do its thing free from conformity to religious constructs.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

And, while we're on the subject, I don't subscribe to any of those views, either. I view Genesis 1 as a liturgical text which attempts, in part, to assert the supremacy of the Hebrew God. It is neither science nor history, as I see it, but poetry

Well, you may not subscribe to those views, but your own view is Genesis 1 as "poetry", so like the YEC, your interpretation a-prior defies scientific inquiry.

My point is that non-literal intepretations of scripture will likewise always defy a literal scientific inquiry. But more over, just as you endeavor to place scientific inquiries in their proper context (e.g. biologists don't study red-shifts and cosmologists don't study chromosomes) scripture needs to be placed in proper context as well. The hermeneutic you use to decide to call Genesis 1 "poetry" as opposed to a literal creation (whether 24-days or day-age) needs to be correct as well.

Scripture is variously literal, figurative, allegorical, symbolic, spiritual, physical, historical, and prophetic. And you seem to have somewhat arbitrarily moved Genesis 1 from the literal column to the figurative (poetry), without good cause, and hence avoid scientific inquiry without good cause. I know you are not alone in that view, but you are asserting that view as beyond scientific inquiry, without good reason, as if it were different from the YEC view.

I submit that your hermeneutic by which you declare Genesis 1 to be "poetry" was an a-priori choice based on the "overwhelming evidence contradicts the claim of a 6-day creation.*

The claim of Genesis 1 as poetry is no more credible than a claim of 6 24-hour days. Both are bad (though typical) engish-language derived interpretations.

You can't reasonably declare Genesis 1 to be beyond scientific inquiry until you've reasonably established what Genesis 1 actually says, under a consistent hermeneutic.

Besides, science can verify that the realm in which it operates actually exists: religion can hardly do the same.

Falsely defined "realms" defy verification, scientfic or religious. Why take pains to carefully define sciences' realm and be haphazard with defining religious realms? Where is the consistency in that approach?

Starwind said...

peak_bagger, Scott Hatfield:

I now prefer to think of science and religion as separate but interacting domains. The ground rules of science are too clear (as you mentioned in your post) for any intrusion of science into religion. And too often, religion intrudes into science.

Agreed, they are interacting domains which have overlapping/intersecting boundaries. The problem is people are naturally carefull with where they draw sciences' boundary, but notoriously illinformed and haphazard about where they draw religions', even assuming one selects a single science (say cosmology) and a single religion (say Shintoism), and already it becomes obvious that careless defintions beget meaningless results.

Also, I’m uncomfortable with Starwind’s appeal to Schroeder.

Perfectly reasonable to be cautious. I wasn't appealing so much as using his article as a quick, hyperlink-accessible example of the point I was trying to raise in understanding the original Hebrew of Genesis 1 and the commensurate implications for scientific inquiry. Your uncertainty suggests it was moderately successful in moving Genesis 1 from 'beyond scientific inquiry', back into the realm of at least a more thorough investigation of what Genesis 1 actually says.

I have written some 250KB of notes on what the Hebrew says (and what the English can't say, consistently) in Genesis 1, and I have also spent considerable time looking at relativistic time dilation treatmenst of 6 24-hour days equating to ~16 B years in different Lorentzian time frames - just my own 'thought experiemnts'.

None of these investigations to date have demonstrated the kind of consistency I expect for a correct reconciliation of scripture and science, but they have born far more fruit then the arbitrary declaration that Genesis 1 is "poetry" and beyond scientific inquiry.

Starwind said...

clarification:

I wrote:
The claim of Genesis 1 as poetry is no more credible than a claim of 6 24-hour days. Both are bad (though typical) engish-language derived interpretations.

As I point out in my Lorentzian time-frames 'though experiments', six "24-hour days" might credibly reconcile to ~16B years, but there remain some sequence issues. i.e. there are some interpretations in which six "24-hour days" has some credibility.

But I don't know any credibile way to construe Genesis 1 as poetry or figurative. It may be imprecise and general, but it is literal and therefore subject to a degree of scientific inquiry commensurate with its precision and generality.

superninja said...

If the Genesis account is held to be literally true, then a host of consequences should follow, consequences in the natural world that are subject to scientific inquiry.

Could you give a few examples of this? Of what consequences would be obvious in the natural world which are missing due to your belief that Genesis is not literal?

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Superninja asks a reasonable question:

...What consequences would be obvious in the natural world which are missing due to your belief that Genesis is not literal?

One is the expected age of the Earth. Reading the Bible literally led the Bishop of Usher to rather famously promote the idea that the Earth is approximately 6,000 years old. This view was so widely adopted that Usher's chronology was printed in the marginalia of many editions of the Bible. If this claim is interpreted literally, we would expect that the evidence from the natural world would support a young Earth, but instead the scientific community has several lines of evidence that point to the Earth's antiquity.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Starwind wrote:

And you seem to have somewhat arbitrarily moved Genesis 1 from the literal column to the figurative (poetry), without good cause, and hence avoid scientific inquiry without good cause.

Well, I didn't do so arbitrarily. There is both textual and historical evidence that justifies the claim that there are two creation stories in Genesis, that the first one is more recent in origin and that the text is more liturgical ('poetic') than historical in character. In fact, I would say that the first two observations are all but universally-acknowledged to be the case.

As for the third claim? While not wildly invoked, it enjoys some support amongst scholars. Here's a good article by the theologian Lawson Stone on that point.

superninja said...

If this claim is interpreted literally, we would expect that the evidence from the natural world would support a young Earth, but instead the scientific community has several lines of evidence that point to the Earth's antiquity.

No offense, but that is not answering my question. You stated the obvious.

My question is that if you are stating the Earth should look a particular way to scientists if the Genesis account were literal, can you please provide examples of this.

Thanks.

superninja said...

I guess what I am saying is that your "several lines of evidence" are disputed by other scientists due to the dating methods. The dating methodology itself does not provide an absolute, it is dependent upon other information which can be loaded with presuppositions.

If you are going to presume that things did not appear in a particular order, I am interested in knowing how they would appear differently if the Genesis account were literal.

My guess is that you can't because you really have no way of knowing what order things came about in, as evolution provides no information about origins of life itself, only what supposedly happened later.

Also, I think it is interesting that as a Christian that in the case of Genesis you make the Bible fit into your scientific assertions when the Bible warns about that exact kind of thinking and not to mention that science is constantly under revision - why would you start with science?

peak_bagger said...

superninja,

The fact that science is constantly under revision is a strength of science, not a weakness. Science is open to change as new evidence is found. Shouldn't we do the same in terms of the Bible? As we find evidence about the world that is contrary to our interpretations of the Bible, shouldn't we at least be open to reevaluating our understanding of what the Bible intends?

I'm not dismissing the Bible as invalid. I'm just willing to say that my interpretation of it is not perfect and God has given us intellect and reason by which we can put all things on the table for examination.

There's no need to start with science. Let science and religious belief interact in positive ways to inform our worldview. No need to pit one against or before the other.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

There is both textual and historical evidence that justifies the claim that there are two creation stories in Genesis, that the first one is more recent in origin and that the text is more liturgical ('poetic') than historical in character. In fact, I would say that the first two observations are all but universally-acknowledged to be the case.

The textual evidence for liturgical poetry is supposedly that Genesis 1 contains two parallels between the first triad of days and the second, and also supposedly parallels between Genesis 1 and 2.

The historical evidence is supposedly parallel accounts between Genesis and other pagan texts, similar "flood stories" for example.

However, the language of Genesis 1 is irrefutably a chronological sequence while Genesis 2 is topical. The text can be forced to yield parallels but that doesn't make them poetry, or even bad, loose poetry if that.

Further there are no parallels between "days" 1-3 and "days" 3-6", except that all six are characterized by "evening" and "morning". Beyond that, different things were created in every "day" and the action verbs such as "created" (bara) or "made" (asah) varied as well. Further they were all enumerated distinctly; the first being absolute ("day one") while the next six were relative ("day second", third, etc.). That these "days" (except the seventh) were all characterized by "evening" and "morning" demonstrates simply that commonality and nothing more. There are no parallels in Genesis 1.

Nor are there parallels between Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1 is the sequential, chronological six "days" of creation while Genesis 2 is the topical seventh day of completion & rest, a summary of all creation, elaboration on the creation of Adam & Eve, and the first commandment (don't eat from the tree of knowledge of good & evil). A topical account cannot parallel a sequential account, especially when the topical account covers additional new information (seventh "day", Eden, tasks for Adam, creation of Eve, 1st commandment).

Except for pagan "flood stories" there are no parallels between all of Genesis and other pagan literature. Nor is there borrowed text in Genesis from other pagan literature. The Assyriologists who study the totality of these kinds of texts and artifacts generally repudiate the bible scholars that significant parallels exist in the first place, flood stories being one notable exception where some parallels exist. As for the assertion that Genesis borrows text from other pagan literature, again the Assyriologists point out that if there were few or no parallels, then obviously little or nothing was borrowed.

As proof, rather than my citing Assyriologists on what parallels or borrowed texts don't exist if you dispute this the expedient approach would be for you to cite specific evidence of a parallel or borrowing (cite the pagan text and what bible book, chapter & verse exhibits the parallel or borrowing).

As you weren't specific, I also suspect you may be alluding to the "JEDP Documentary Hypothesis" of multiple writers and/or sources for the Pentateuch and two accounts/authors for Genesis. This theory first advanced in 1886 by Julius Wellhausen has been substantially discredited in the last 20-30 years though many scholars still ascribe to it to explain what they veiw as inconsistencies and the supernatural. See Wellhausenism Evaluated After A Century Of Influence by Surburg, 1979. Also see Are There Two Creation Accounts in Genesis?

Essentially, the JEDP Documentary Hypothesis views as suspect variations in 1) Divine Names in Genesis; 2) Diction and Style; 3) parallel or Duplicate Accounts. The JEDP DH assumes an absence of Divine oversight or control and posits instead natural humanistic explanations for the perceived problems.

However differences in Divine names emphasize different aspects of God's character commensurate with different contexts, and "Elohim" is used when God relates to the nations while "YHWH" is used when God relates to Israel. A simple read of many ANE inscriptions will show parallels and duplicates but these are not suspected of multiple sources. And Scripture is variously literal, figurative, allegorical, symbolic, spiritual, physical, historical, and prophetic. All these contexts exist in the Pentateuch and each context will naturally display different voices and styles deliberately from the same writer.

A correct hermeneutic is essential to understanding the bible. Why don't liberal bible "higher critics" have one?

Because the underlying reason is that they simply disbelieve the plain reading and authenticity of the Bible; they disbelieve in the miraculous or divinely inspired and see no need for a correct hermeneutic (see Wellhausen's "request for transfer" from seminary on p17 above). They escape from the supernatural implications by compromising biblical interpretation yielding to (peer) secular intellectual pressure. Like Celsus long before them, they seek worldy, natural explanations for what the Bible plainly declares are supernatural, and consequently are drawn to "higher critcism" which provides refuge in alternate explanations for Bible text origins. Though they are bible scholars (and some even teach in seminaries) these people approach scripture as literature or even myth, but not as God's divinely inspired word.

Those who purport to profess Christ as Lord and Savior even go so far as to ignore Christ Himself when He said He came not to change one jot or tittle of the Torah, but to fulfill it. Christ often corrected erroneous thinking and cited scripture frequently, to wit:

Jesus in Mark 10:4-8 quotes Gen 2:24 (“Jahweh source") from Moses; in Mark 7:10 He quotes the 10 Commandments (“Elohim source") again from Moses; in Mark 10:3 He refers to Deut 24:1 (Deuteronomist source) from Moses; and in Matt. 8:4 quotes Lev. 14 ("Priestly source") also from Moses. And Jesus in Luke 24:44 did not say "all things which are written about Me in the Law of the “Jahweh source", “Elohim source" "Priestly source", "Deuteronomist source" and "Redactor".

Never did Jesus imply that any of it was anything other than what was written.

So, while you may not have personally made an arbitray decision to move Genesis 1 from the literal column to the figurative (poetry), there really is no textual, historic, or source critcism that provides any rationale, especially not for the Christian.

I'll look at your Lawson Stone link and get back later on it.

superninja said...

peak bagger,

Yes, revision is a strength in the case of science, because science is human observation of what is already there, and we have imperfect understanding. That is what science is from the outset.

The Bible is different in that it says it is from God, who claims to be perfect and that what he has communicated to humanity is perfect in its message. That is not to say that there are not transcription errors or that we have perfect knowledge of the languages in which they were written.

But it does assume that God knows better than we do. It was written so that everyone everywhere at every time could understand it.

Anyway, I appreciate your courteous response to my comments, but I disagree with you on this.

superninja said...

Also, I do not believe science and the Bible are in conflict. What are in conflict are the various philosophies of the scientists pretending to be science.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

Having read Lawson Stone's article Creation 1-Starting at the Beginning?, I essentially agree with what he writes, especially about the nuances of bara vs asah and creation ex-nihilo (almost identical to my own views).

I would quibble with two points he glosses over, Stone writes:
"First, the construction does not convey the idea of an absolute beginning, but a relative one. The text speaks not of the beginning, but of the start of God's work in creating the present order in which we live. ... The last article talked about the likelihood that the opening phrase of Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning…" refers not to an absolute "year zero" but to a relative beginning."

Yes, God is timeless, exists outside of time and has existed from eternity before creation. In that sense Gen 1:1 "in the beginning" is indeed relative to God's timeless existance. But it was an absolute beginning for creation, and the "days" or "ages" (yom in the Hebrew) were enumerated "yom echad" (day one) an absolute, followed by "yom shaynee (day second) relative to day one, etc. Further, as God exists outside of time and creation is constrained within time, it is meaningless to distinguish temporalness as relative to timelessness.

Second, Stone also writes: "First, the very making of the heavens and the earth involve God's bara'-ing. The expression "heavens and earth" denote much more than "sky and ground." Scholars call the phrase a merismus, a pair of words that express "everything in between." English expressions like "from soup to nuts" or "lock, stock and barrel" which express "everything" serve a similar role. So the term "heaven and earth" is the Hebrew way to say "the entire cosmos."

Yes, "heavens and earth" is a merismus, expressing 'everything in between', but at an elemental level. The Hebrew sages believed "heaven" in Gen 1:1 did not mean where God dwells or atmosphere but empty space, while "earth" meant the 'elements' earth, water, spirit and darkness, but not dirt, dust, rocks, etc. These elements were formless and void; it was tohu (matter without substance) that became bohu (empty form or shape). The possible correspondence in cosmology is the creation of space, energy, and time. As space expanded and time ran, energy cooled and 'congealed' into subatomic particles, and then further condensed into atomic particles allowing photons to pass (light) - yom 1. Then atomic particles formed molecules in huge gas 'clouds' which began to contract and heat up and form stars, etc... - yom 2.

Stone also notes the "gap theory" requires an incorrect reading of Gen 1:2, agreed, and while he mentions ancient pagan accounts, he also notes they don't parallel Genesis in that God eternally exists and creates everything in a tranquil state, whereas the pagan accounts have gods' being birthed from some pre-existing matrix and then they fight and create men to serve them, agreed. But the mention of "god" in both accounts does not a parallel make; too many other characteristics conflict or are absent, and I would have left discussion of them out of that article.

All in all, I found Stone's views refreshing.

386sx said...

There must be an emprical way that religion thinks it has realms, right?

And the answer is... they hear voices in their heads but they don't like admitting it.

peak_bagger said...

Starwind:

The photon transparency of the universe on yom 1 is an interesting take. I'm not much of a Bible scholar but remind me again, why would God create plants before the Sun?

Also, it's not difficult for me to see parallels in Genesis 1. Can you comment on the "tohu" and "bohu" concept as posited in the framework theory?

peak_bagger said...

superninja,

I agree that God knows better than we do and I wholeheartedly accept its plenary inspiration. Is it possible that God choose to come down to our level and communicate using our stories and traditions? And those narratives as in Genesis speak not so much to fact but rather to truth? For instance, Gen. 1 is about God as Creator of all things. And Gen. 2 is that God created man and desires a relationship with mankind. The truths of those stories are far more important than the facts.

If God chooses to speak through imperfect man, it is bold to claim the Bible is absolutely perfect, even in its original form. It seems to me that God chooses to work at our level, using our customs and traditions (e.g. the covenant made with Abraham in Gen. 15, Jesus made man).

We can choose to claim the Bible is perfect but I find that to be more tenuous the longer I live. But as a story of God's relationship with mankind, I have no difficulty recognizing its authority.

superninja said...

peak bagger,

I think that is understimating God's ability. We are created in his image and for the purpose of having a relationship with him. What are our customs and traditions based on in any case? Having been made in his image they are either a copy of eternal truths or perversions of that.

The Bible is filled with facts as well as truth, but I agree it's not a science textbook.

It doesn't need to be, because science is just observing what is, it did not create anything, it is just a tool to understand and manipulate what exists.

In that respect, it is so much smaller than the Bible. Again, I have no problem with science - it's wonderful, but too much emphasis is put on it in areas where it does not belong.

Christianity had a wonderful influence on modern science's origins.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Superninja nitpicks:

My question is that if you are stating the Earth should look a particular way to scientists if the Genesis account were literal, can you please provide examples of this.

OK. If the Genesis account were literal, given 24-hour days, we should find all phyla contemporaneous in the fossil record. It should not be the case that we do not see birds until the middle of the Mesozoic, whereas we see complex sea life in the Paleozoic, when both are claimed to have been created on the 'fifth day' (Gen. 1:20-23). For that matter, why is there a clear fossil sequence at all? If all life was generated in a 48-hour span, as a literal reading of Genesis demands, then why should there be any detectable trends in the fossil record?

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

More Superninja observations:

The dating methodology itself does not provide an absolute, it is dependent upon other information which can be loaded with presuppositions.

I'm trying to figure out how I can possibly load the Standard Model in physics with any presuppositions other than the brute facts which are consistent with that model. Radioactive decay occurs. Different isotopes decay with predictable rates, rates which have been invariant over the last 13.7 BY. In order to bypass these inconvenient facts, you will need to come up with something to replace the Standard Model, which is to say pretty much all of physics.

But, for the sake of discussion, let's assume that there is some sort of presupposition at work regarding the dating of strata. Even if you could demonstrate such a bias, how would that refute the fact that fossil record is, in fact, stratified? From this point of view, it doesn't matter one whit whether a layer of dirt is six thousand years, or 64 million years. How come I only find dinosaurs in strata that's 'dated' as 65 MY, and none in strata that's younger? How can this pattern of change be squared with 48 hours of creation a mere 6,000 years ago?

Also, I think it is interesting that as a Christian that in the case of Genesis you make the Bible fit into your scientific assertions when the Bible warns about that exact kind of thinking and not to mention that science is constantly under revision - why would you start with science?

That's easy: because scientific claims can be falsified, whereas claims derived from the premise of supernatural intervention can't. The burden of proof is actually harder from my side of the aisle, so when there are apparent conflicts in areas of overlap (as is the case when testable consequences emerge) it makes sense to evaluate those areas from the 'side' which demands the most rigor of its own claims---namely, science.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Starwind: I'll review the links you suggest. They sound intriguing. To me, as someone who has done liturgy, I don't have to be a Bible scholar to recognize the difference in tone and intent between the two creation stories. Conversely, I don't have to adopt any particular notion of 'inspiration' or the lack of same to recognize same. I don't have an ax to grind where the Bible is concerned. A story can contain Truth without being literally true, as any Good Samaritan could probably attest...

superninja said...

Scott,

Briefly - there are have been stratification experiments which show rapid layering in an hour. This has also been observed in flooding. Yes, radioactive decay occurs, but there is conflicting data as I'm sure you know. I suspect that the Standard model is not really in conflict, rather how it is applied and interpreted here.

There are fossils with intact DNA which are supposed to be millions of years old dated by the radiocarbon method. They've found fossils in strata they should not be in if the layering is based primarily on time and not other factors.

Scientific claims being testable and falsifiable are good for science, but again, I'm not sure this does a whole lot for its reliability when applied to other areas, which is really most of the beef with evolution. The more I learn about this the more it appears to be key to a worldview and you must compartmentalize to marry it to Biblical views.

peak_bagger said...

superninja said:
I think that is understimating God's ability.

Crediting God for God's ability is a noble sentiment and one I can appreciate. As Creator of the universe, God is powerful to do whatever God wants. BUT, the question, "What does God choose to do?" For instance, God has the ability to ensure that the gospel narratives record the events in Jesus's ministry in the same order. Why is the order of events such as the clearing of the temple and the Passover dinner different in John compared to the other synoptic gospels? To me, this does NOT invalidate the meaning or importance of the gospels but it does compel me to think that God wrote the story through imperfect human vessels.

superninja also wrote:
There are fossils with intact DNA which are supposed to be millions of years old dated by the radiocarbon method.

I would suggest you check your sources for this as it appears to be hearsay. Anyone familiar with radiocarbon dating recognizes that C-14 dating is only valid to about 50-60,000 years.

Starwind said...

peak_bagger:

I'm not much of a Bible scholar but remind me again, why would God create plants before the Sun?

The following are my own thoughts, somewhat speculative, certainly not offered as "absolute truth".

(HTML formatting constraints prevent it from appearing any more cohesive.)

In Gen 1:16-19, many scholars recognize the word translated “made” (in reference to the sun, moon and stars) from the Hebrew ‘asah’ (Qal Imperfect with waw-consecutive prefix) while normally translated in English present tense (“made”) can also be translated “had made” in the English pluperfect completed tense. Meaning that God “had made” (at some time prior) the sun, moon and stars, and ostensibly what happened on the fourth day (yom) was perhaps a partial clearing of cloud cover and maybe reduction of atmospheric dust – a change from translucence to occasional transparency, such that direct sunlight, moonlight and starlight could pass through the atmosphere.

Explaining the grammatical treatment of rendering the waw-consecutive in the pluperfect are:
Waltke and M. O'Connor in “An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax” (Eisenbrauns, 1990) p 552 cite Dr. Futato as giving two criteria:
1. lexical repetition
2. the context or historical background ("knowledge of the real world") suggests that "a previous event or situation is being provided"
John Collins in “THE WAYYIQTOL AS 'PLUPERFECT': WHEN AND WHY” (Tyndale Bulletin Vol.46.1 May 1995) pp 117-140 provides three criteria:
1. “when some anaphoric reference explicitly points back to a previous event.”
2. “The logic of the referent described requires that an event presented by a previous verb form actually took place prior to the event presented by a previous verb.”
3. “The verb begins a section or paragraph”

William Martin in “ ‘Dischronologized’ Narrative in the Old Testament” (Vetus Testamentum Supplement 17, 176-186) refers to these as dischronologizations.

Randall Buth in “Methodological Collision Between Source Criticism Analysis: The Problem of ‘Unmarked Temporal’ Overlay and Pluperfect/Nonsequential Wayyiqtol” (Bergen, 1954) pp 138-154. notes wayyiqtol is sometimes used to repeat part of what had been stated by a previous wayyiqtol form; that within a standard narrative, vayyiqtol will be used to progress chronologically in but then the narrative reverts to an earlier point in the timeline.

While the Hebrew text of Genesis 1 specifically and Hebrew grammar generally permit (but don’t require) such an interpretation, the “rules” for interpreting waw-consecutive Qal imperfect as English pluperfect are essentially dictated by the context (as is often the case with Hebrew), and it is construing that context where opinions vary, including some tense translations in various bibles.

The context then which suggests Gen 1:16 be translated “God [had] made the sun moon, and stars…] meets the criteria above for providing non-sequential (dischronologized) background, that the event presented by a previous verb form actually took place prior to the event presented by a previous verb. This contextual criteria is satisfied by three characteristics in Gen 1:1-15 prior to Gen 1:16:
1. evening and morning on yom 1, 2 and 3 in Gen 1:5, 8 and 13
2. prior establishment of growing plants and trees on yom 3 in Gen 1:9-13;
3. purposes achieved on yom 4 (signs, seasons, days and years, to separate day and night, and to shine on the earth).

1) The standard interpretation of “evening” and “morning” is that of sunset and sunrise, which happened on yom 1, 2, and 3 all requiring a sun (and a rotating planet) prior to yom 4. This very juxtaposition of measuring days without a sun was discussed by the ancient Hebrew sages. Moses Maimonides and Ramban Nachmanides writing in the 12th and 13th centuries (respectively) noted:

“It was difficult for [Rabbi Judah, son of Rabbi Simon] to understand whereby the first day and the second and the third day were measured. There is an explicit statement on this point | made by the Sages, may their memory be blessed, in Bereshith Rabbah. With reference to the light said in the Torah [Gen 1:3] to have been created in the first day, they make literally the following statement: Those are the luminaries that have been created on the first day, but that He did not suspend until the fourth day. Thus a clear explanation as to this point has been made.”
Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed Vol II, translated by Shlomo Pines, University of Chicago Press, p 350.

“Some scholars explain [Ibn Ezra, Verse 5, and Rambam, Moreh Nebuchim, II, 30] that one day is a reference to the rotation of the sphere upon the face of the whole earth in twenty-four hours, as every moment thereof is morning in some different place and night in the opposite place. If so, the verse alludes to that which will take place in the firmament after the luminaries will be placed in the firmament of the heavens”
Ramban Nachmanides, Commentary on the Torah – Genesis, translated by Dr. Charles B. Chavel, Shilo Publishing House, 1971, p 33.

There can be no evening or morning without sun light shining on a rotating planet – which the Hebrew sages recognized as well. Gen 1:16 “retroactively” describes the creation of the sun commensurate with prior evenings and mornings.

2) The growing plants and trees that give fruit (of yom 3) are seasonal, growing and bearing fruit in summer and dormant in other seasons, and requiring varying amounts of daily light for growth and health. In Gen 1:14-15 God’s purpose does not include so plants would grow and bear fruit – they were already growing and bearing fruit, in season, on the prior yom. The prerequisites for which (a rotating, tilted planet earth) was explicitly established on yom 1, 2 or 3 (depending on ones point of view) and a sun about which it revolved was implicitly established not later than yom 3, else plants and trees would not grow and give fruit in season.

The cause of seasonality is the earth’s tilt on its axis as it revolves around the sun, each revolution being a solar year, while the cause of day and night is its rotation on its axis relative to a fixed observer. The effects of seasonality are climatic and the sun and stars appear in different positions each season. The prerequisites are a rotating, tilted planet earth which also revolves about the sun.

There can be no seasons or years (let alone days) without a sun about which the planet earth can revolve. Gen 1:16 “retroactively” describes the creation of the sun commensurate with prior plants and tress bearing fruit (ostensibly in their annual seasons).

3) While Gen 1:14-15 implies creation (“let there be”), it is largely concerned with the purposes for that creation; God lists the purposes of the lights and those purposes are largely to measure time and illuminate. It is noteworthy that God, on yom 4, explains the method by which preceding 24-our days with evening and morning were to be demarcated or measured. If this method were not created until yom 4, how did 24-hour days with evening and morning exist previously? Either the prior yom were not 24-hour days, the means to cause them (a planet rotating under a sun) were created prior to yom 4 (in which case yom 4 describes pluperfect creation), or both.

Gen 1:14-15 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so.

The Hebrew word translated as “let there be”1961 is hâyâh and can mean “to abide, remain, continue when accompanied by a word of place or time” (see Brown Driver Briggs Definition 1a3b for H1961). In Gen 1:14-15 hâyâh is accompanied by seasons, days, years (words for time) and by “in the expanse of the heavens” (words for place), So the grammar permits an interpretation of “let there remain or continue lights…” and “let them remain or continue for…”

Gen 1:14-15 describes God’s purpose in creating the sun, moon and stars while Gen 1:16 “retroactively” describes the creation preparations commensurate with those purposes.

The foregoing does not obviate the interpretation of each yom being of indeterminate age rather than a 24-hour day, as the chronological sequence issues of yom 4 exist in both young-earth and day-age interpretations. But the interpretation of “evening” and “morning” as defining a 24-hour day exacerbates the yom 4 sequence issues, whereas interpreting “evening” and “morning” as “disorder becoming order” is of little consequence here because the 2nd and 3rd arguments above remain.

But if yom 4 describes creation events that actually occurred during prior yom, then what ‘creation event’ did occur on yom 4, assuming that yom 4 is not merely descriptive but that something should actually be creative? As mentioned above perhaps a partial clearing of cloud cover and maybe reduction of atmospheric dust – a change from translucence to occasional transparency, such that direct sunlight, moonlight and starlight could pass undiffused through the atmosphere.

Alternatively, the enumeration of the seven creation yom are all relative to the absolute numbering of yom one. It matters nothing to the beginning at one or the culmination in a total of seven, if the events of the 3rd and 4th are reversed. While the text clearly enumerates sea and land forming and plants and trees growing on yom 3rd, and the sun, moon, and stars existing on yom 4th, there are no textual or theological problems introduced (aside from criticisms leveled against inerrancy) by interpreting the chronological sequence of yom 3rd and 4th as ‘swapped’.

Why might it have been revealed to Moses in the order recorded as opposed to the order created? Scripture is filled with numerous “parenthetical explanations” which interrupt or “flash-back” chronologically. The argument offered here is just one more such instance. Perhaps, what was divinely revealed to Moses was the text and context of each yom, beginning with absolute number one and culminating in seven total yom (the number of completion, and upon which yom God rested from His creative work), but their relative enumeration (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc) is not what God emphasizes, though it matters to us when we try to reconcile scripture with what we observe in creation/nature.

What divine purpose is served by God revealing what might actually be “yom 4th" before parenthetically flashing back and revealing what turns out to be “yom 3rd"?

I don’t know, except it is a question that has occupied mankind for millennia and therefore kept our attention focused on searching scripture, scrutinizing nature, and looking for the hand of God in both. As Paul might say (Php 1:18) “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached.”

Starwind said...

peak_bagger:

Can you comment on the "tohu" and "bohu" concept as posited in the framework theory?

It seems a rather trivialzed and forced fit. I don't find the framework theory credible, as my prior posts on the lack of parallels would imply.

Essentially they had strip out part of "day 1" and falsely construe "heavens and earth" as meaning "atmosphere and land" to setup for the parallels they sought.

It was the "earth" that was formless and void, but the framework attempts to form non-earth by separating day and night and fill non-earth with the sun and moon, all while conveniently ignoring the stars.

Then they further had to ignore that "filling" took place on "forming" days (plants and trees grew and bore fruit on the 3rd); forming took place on filling days (day 4 establishes seasons days, years day and night - which seems less like "filling" and more like "forming".

When there are so few days and so many exceptions, I don't find the "pattern" to be credible.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Superninja wrote:

there are have been stratification experiments which show rapid layering in an hour. This has also been observed in flooding. Yes, radioactive decay occurs, but there is conflicting data as I'm sure you know.

Again, it makes no difference whether the layering occurred in an hour or in a million years. What matters is what fossils are found in which layers. Why do we NEVER see trilobites in Mesozoic rock, never never never? If all the major taxa were created within a 48-hour period, as Genesis 1 interpreted literally clearly claims, then why are the taxa distributed in a non-random way in the fossil sequence recorded in the strata?

Be honest. I've presented a claim that follows from a literal reading of Genesis, which is manifestly NOT observed. I've asked you to explain the non-random, non-contemporaneous character of the fossil record, not the age of the Earth or the rapidity which strata can be generated or (dubious) claims about assumptions about radioactive decay. I mean, I know these are all boiler-plate arguments for YEC, but it still doesn't explain the fossil record. How do you propose to square a literal reading of Genesis with that?

Billy said...

"I don’t know, except it is a question that has occupied mankind for millennia and therefore kept our attention focused on searching scripture, scrutinizing nature, and looking for the hand of God in both."

Does it ever bother you that in all that "scrutinizing nature", there doesn't appear to be any evidence that actually supports a literal reading of the Genesis creation story? It's just that you seem to spend an awful lot of time shoehorning ancient Hebrew into what we actually observe about the world, when a simple application of Occam's Razor would suggest that - like all the other creation accounts around the world - it's probably not a literal description of events.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

t's just that you seem to spend an awful lot of time shoehorning ancient Hebrew into what we actually observe about the world, when a simple application of Occam's Razor would suggest that - like all the other creation accounts around the world - it's probably not a literal description of events.

I concur.

Starwind said...

Billy, Scott Hatfield;

Does it ever bother you that in all that "scrutinizing nature", there doesn't appear to be any evidence that actually supports a literal reading of the Genesis creation story?

lol - not any? Not even the Big Bang?

In the begining God created heavens and earth, formless and void: the "big bang", a 'beginning' of the universe from 'nothing' when timeless forces emerged in a gravitational/geometric singularity, theoretically from dimensions beyond ours, afterwhich those forces cooled into matter, time went positive, space inflated, etc.

Here is a table (as best the HTML formatting constraints allow) which shows one possible, flawed, correspondence:

Biblical passages----| Nature, epoch
--------------------------------------------------------
heavens and earth,---| Strings, Planck
formless and void,---|
darkness over--------|
the surface----------|
--------------------------------------------------------
Spirit of God moved--| Quantum fluctuations, Unifcation
over the surface
--------------------------------------------------------
let there be light---| Nucleosynthesis,-- Photon
---------------------|------------------- transparency
---------------------| Matter domination, Recombination
--------------------------------------------------------
expanse separates----| Pop III stars, Large scale
waters below---------|--------------- structure formation
from waters above----|--------------- Reionization
--------------------------------------------------------
greater and lesser---| Pop II & I stars, Galaxy
lights---------------|------------------ formation
and stars------------|
--------------------------------------------------------
waters below---------| Precambrian: Hadean & Archean
gathered into seas---|
dry land appear------|
--------------------------------------------------------
earth sprout---------|
brought forth--------|
vegetation-----------| algae, Cambrian
---------------------| vascular plants, Silurian
plants yielding seed | Grasses, Devonian
trees bearing fruit -| forests, Devonian
--------------------------------------------------------
created great--------| whales? Oligocene (wrong sequence)
sea monsters---------|
creatures swarming---| fish, Carboniferous
in the waters--------|
winged birds---------| birds, Jurassic (wrong sequence)
--------------------------------------------------------
earth bring forth:---|
beasts of the earth--| dinosaurs, Cretaceous
cattle---------------| mammals, Paleocene
everything-----------| reptiles? or
that creeps----------| insects? (Permian, wrong sequece)
--------------------------------------------------------
created man----------| Homo sapiens sapiens, Holocene

It's just that you seem to spend an awful lot of time shoehorning ancient Hebrew into what we actually observe about the world,

Well, actually that ancient Hebrew has been lost and shoe-horned into other languages for over two millenia, and extracting it's original meaning(s) does take some time. Explaining the differences in the rules of Hebrew vs English as well as the meanings of Hebrew words, is something many (such as yourself) have no interest in comprehending, especially when those explanations contradict your preconceived notions, and not surprisingly you are comforted by Scott's dismissals of it as poetry.

Scott Hatfield:

I concur.

You should know better. You are without excuse.

As you have yet to respond substantively to any of evidences I've offered you (here and on Haloscan) regarding scriptures' literal authenticity and its testibility by hard science, I must conclude at this point you're disinclined. Fair enough.

But I've had my fill of lukewarm testimony and run through my quota of pearls so, adios.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Without excuse, huh? I kind of feel as if you're subtly questioning my intellectual integrity here. Should I take it that means you've concluded that I, personally, am 'lukewarm' and so you are going to 'spew me out of your mouth'? I'd be sad if that was the case.

Is there room for more than one interpretation of the Hebrew in Genesis 1? I can't tell from your remarks whether or not you think that's the case, but I can say that I don't have enough scholarship in Hebrew to gainsay some of your observations. At the end of the day, there are authorities who would disagree with how you characterize the situation, and there are those who would agree, and I'm not learned enough to say definitively one way or another how to proceed without doing significant research---and even if I did, what standing would Genesis 1 have as data? You can't reason from the possibility that one interpretation of Genesis might be consonant with the data from nature that the Bible becomes data itself. Is that honest enough for ya?

Further, can a clever OEC find an approximate correspondence to the order of events in Genesis 1 with some sort of scientific chronology? Sure. That'a a trope of the OEC literature, going back to George Macready Price and W.J. Bryan. I've never denied that, and in fact participate in an RTB chapter that pushes a version of that, the 'progressive creationism' of Hugh Ross.

I'm not persuaded by it: seems too ad hoc to me, but to their credit Ross (and his disciple Fuz Rana) seem eager to put forward a testable model. That makes Ross and company significantly more credible to this science teacher than most other creationists, and I also appreciate the fact that they don't regard the 'question of days' as to how Genesis 1 should be interpreted as critical doctrine to salvation. As does, for example, AIG. I would hate to think that you've adopted a similar mindset, simply because I've been slow to respond to your 'pearls.'

If your interest is rekindled, I'll try to start a new post with a reformatted version of the correspondence you provided in the previous post and invite discussion. Just drop me a line and I'll do the work to facilitate same.....Scott

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

True or false interpretations of Genesis are not salvific, only a genuine belief in and obedience to Jesus Christ is salvific. To the extent any of our professions is sincere is between each of us and Jesus Himself. He knows our hearts, better than we do.

The pearls remark was in reference to the Christ rejectors and the lukewarm remark was a reference to your handling of faith and the word. FWIW, I find some of Vox Day's posts lukewarm albeit in different aspects, or perhaps I'm just judgmental and/or overly rigorous - could be.

But it is not for me to spew you, Vox, or anyone out. I am not Jesus. I am called to be 'salt' and judge the fruit I see, which for any of us on the internet is admittedly a narrow and distorted view at best, which is why we need to hold every thought (post?) captive to Jesus and steward our respective gifting and writing as best we can.

what standing would Genesis 1 have as data? You can't reason from the possibility that one interpretation of Genesis might be consonant with the data from nature that the Bible becomes data itself.

How many consonant intepretations do you expect? There will be only one. There will not be multiple consonant interpretations. And if the "poetic", framework, or documentary hypothesis has been disproven? (let me recall, what was the darwinists battle cry, oh yes) "It's the best theory we have".

As you ought to be aware by now, much of the bible is in fact "data", authenticated data, to archaeologists and historians at a minimum. And if there is an admitted approximate correspondence of Genesis 1 to some sort of scientific chronology, and if you further admittedly lack the scholarship in Hebrew to gainsay the suggested interpretations, then on what basis do you concur that ancient Hebrew has been shoehorned and that Genesis is probably not a literal description of events?

None of that makes Genesis 1 "data", certainly not of the rigorous kind required by cosmologists, geologists, or biologists, but it clearly establishes grounds to desist from dismissals of it as poetry. Take a look at your default predispositions.

I don't believe you would knowingly fabricate a falsehood. But I do believe you would knowingly avoid the crux of the issue and evidence presented.

I have other commitments and don't find my further posts here to be edifying or bringing God any glory.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Starwind:

Fair enough. It's probably not edifying for either of us to attempt to 'prove' certain things within the context of this discussion. I am certainly predisposed to regard your comments as sincere and scholarly. You have my respect, even if we do not agree on every jot or tittle.

I do want to give your brief the response it deserves. You write: " And if there is an admitted approximate correspondence of Genesis 1 to some sort of scientific chronology, and if you further admittedly lack the scholarship in Hebrew to gainsay the suggested interpretations, then on what basis do you concur that ancient Hebrew has been shoehorned and that Genesis is probably not a literal description of events?"

Well, the first thing I note is that your proposed correspondence doesn't appear to be a literal correspondence. You have to take (forgive me, I'm not trying to be a smart-alec) poetic license with the text. To say that the earth was without form and void is not, strictly speaking, the same thing as saying that space did not exist prior to the Big Bang. Strictly speaking, the spirit of God is not a quantum fluctuation. Et cetera, et cetera. In each case you seem to be going to some length to recast certain phenomena to fit the Biblical text, but even if I allow what you are saying in no way does this count as a literal interpretation, right? It seems we are both considering a poetic account, only I see it as liturgy, whereas you see it as a very attenuated (but still interpretive) brand of history.

I am going to review all of our above correspondence and give it the attention it deserves. Perhaps I may yet still be edified.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

A final point, lest you waste your time...

To say that the earth was without form and void is not, strictly speaking, the same thing as saying that space did not exist prior to the Big Bang.

That is not the correlation I was drawing. The "earth" was without form and void after its creation ex-nihilo. Neither space nor matter existed prior to the big bang. I could not draw the "table" with sufficent detail. The first event is:
1) creation of heavens and earth ex-nihilo (prior to which there was no space nor matter) and being without form and void corresponds to string theory descriptions of a 11-dimensional multi-verse of potentials from which our 4-D universe "collapsed" (and was without form and void) and into which a gravitational singularity then exploded into an isotropic and homogenous "quark-gluon plasma".

I'm not persuaded string theory is correct, it has many flaws, as does the standard big bang.

Strictly speaking, the spirit of God is not a quantum fluctuation.

Agreed. The correlation drawn was not that God Himself exists as a "quantum fluctuation" but rather that God "caused" what cosmologists theorize was a (possibly quantum) fluctuation in the otherwise isotropic and homogenous "quark-gluon plasma" theorized to exist just after the big bang. The 2nd event in my "table" then is:
2) "Spirit of God moved over the surface" corresponds to God 'sticking His finger in' the isotropic and homogenous "quark-gluon plasma" to cause fluctuations which resulted in the anisotropic non-homogenous distribution of energy and matter which then under gravitational attraction gradually condensed into the later large-scale formation of galactic strings & clusters, while the cosmic microwave background radition remained fairly isotropic and homogenous. That fluctuation may also be the "trigger" for baryogenesis and supersymmetry breaking.

The first event occured during the Planck epoch, the second during the grand unification epoch.

Cosmological science is in flux on these theories, but the observations of large scale isotropy and homogeneity and smaller scale anisotropy and non-homogeneity of galactic clusters and strings and the missing dark matter/energy remain problems for all of them. They lack an explanation for their cause, as does the "beginning" and prior thereto lack explanation.

but even if I allow what you are saying in no way does this count as a literal interpretation, right?

Re-examine your viewpoint as follows. Assume (hypothetically) that God did cause creation in a sequence of events begining from nothing but God Himself, ending in the universe/solarsystem/homosapiens as science observes and theorizes it today. Assume further that you are God revealing to Moses what you did. How would you explain it? What level of detail would you include? What words would you use? What would you emphasize, what would skip over? Whom would be your readership? When (if ever) would you expect them to understand and what is your purpose in their understanding? What would you want Moses, the Israelites, and mankind to conlcude from what you'd created and revealed?

Now then, what specifically do you tell Moses to write down?

And now as Scott Hatfield, given the incomplete understanding of science as to the state of cosmology and evolution, if your university "comparative religions" professor assigned you to write a correlation of science to the various religious creation accounts, what table would you draw?

superninja said...

Scott, you seemed to have missed part of my post:

"They've found fossils in strata they should not be in if the layering is based primarily on time and not other factors."

You can pick and choose as you will, but there have been fossils found in layers where they should not be.

It is simply not as reliable as you are making it out to be.

superninja said...

"I would suggest you check your sources for this as it appears to be hearsay. Anyone familiar with radiocarbon dating recognizes that C-14 dating is only valid to about 50-60,000 years."

That's correct, peak bagger, I misspoke - I should have said radiometric dating. DNA should not be intact if the specimens are actually as old as they are claimed to be (65 million years).

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Starwind:

I don't have a problem with the scenario you've painted. Like Hugh Ross, you're taking great pains to square it with the known details from astronomy and current thinking in cosmology, and I admire the effort.

I just don't see the necessity of it, myself, as a personal matter. You ask a very good question about what God should've told Moses in the first place about 'how he did it.' Well, my response is that Yahweh can do what Yahweh wants, and that includes providing the author of Genesis 1 with a liturgical narrative that fits in their cultural context, with their preexistent cosmology with waters above and below. I wouldn't feel compelled to square it with every detail or claim made by the scientific community at this time, because human knowledge is limited and the essential purpose of the narrative, I think, is not to establish some sequence of events as doctrinal or explanatory, but to emphasize the fact of Creation and how the character of Creation within the Hebrew cosmology differed from those of rival belief systems of its time.

You raise an interesting hypothetical, so interesting I think I will post on it and invite comments. If a university professor for some reason made the unlikely assignment of analyzing Genesis for scientific correspondence, I would do two things:

a) for the reasons I've given above, question the rationale for the assignment;

b) point out that it is not so much the details of the sequence, but the assertion of a transcendent Creator that makes Genesis stand out from other ancient origin stories, and that this transcendence is consonant with 'the Big Bang' in a way that most belief systems about origins then and now are not...!

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

superninja:

You can pick and choose as you will, but there have been fossils found in layers where they should not be.

It is simply not as reliable as you are making it out to be.


I think this will come as news to my friends in geology who are employed in the petroleum industry and who use the geological time scale and indicator fossils to locate coal, oil and natural gas. You are aware that the entire system was invented not to contradict Genesis, but to find desirable mineral deposits? If it's still used for that purpose in the private sector (and it is), doesn't that suggest that it is at least somewhat reliable and any examples you presents are likely to be outliers probably due to other factors?

Tell you what: let's pretend that the above bias doesn't exist. Let's pretend that geologists, miners and engineers don't still employ the fossil record as data in their work. If you are right, there should be quite a few such cases of fossils 'in the wrong strata' and you no doubt you will appreciate my request for details. What have you got? Sources?

In the meantime, here's a source for you to ponder. Keith Miller is an evangelical Christian and a paleontologist. He has an analysis of the fossil record, focusing on transitional forms, that can be read on the ASA web site here.

Dr. Miller's a serious Christian far more wedded to Biblical inerrancy than yours truly. If he can accept the fossil record as legitimate data, revealing a definite pattern of change over large amounts of time, why can't others? I'm just saying....