Re: Wading into the deep end of the pool



Mike Hammond wrote:
Okay - I'm going to try to address each of the substantive points in
your - sheesh - 50 responses to my post.

-----------------------------------------

Why? Just because some religious folks who are ignorant of science
insist on it?

I'm in agreement that some religious folks are ignorant of science.
Probably true that a lot of non-religious are the same way.
However, it seems unnecessary to assume that if someone has a
religious view that conflicts with the scientific consensus on the
nature of history, and wants to defend an alternative interpretation
of scientific data, that such a person is being ignorant.
To the question of why (I've been persuaded towards a 6 day
interpretation) - it seems to me that I've been ignoring what seems to
be the plain meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 (6 literal days > ~6000 year
old universe) solely because there is scientific data that suggests a
much, much older age. In other words, I've been working backwards
from scientific data, trying to force other interpretations into the
Bible to make the Bible match the data. I've decided to change my
approach to front-to-back - working from what "some religious folks"
suggest is a more faithful reading of the Bible, and working forward
to see what that would mean for consideration of the existing data
that is out there (on which I admit being woefully undereducated).

Why? What makes the Bible reliable? Don't say "God" because there
is no
evidence that God had anything at all to do with the Bible.

That one is just a matter of faith for me. I just assume it's
reliable as my axiomatic starting point. My life experiences
corroborate statements I see in the Bible to such a sufficient degree
that I'll take the rest on faith. That said, I imagine this isn't the
a forum designed for debating the reliability of the Bible. I just
want to see what happens if I start from a 6-day creation, 6,000 year-
old universe perspective and then look at the data from that
perspective.

Why would you accept claims about the inerrancy of the Bible when
the
clear, overwhelming evidence shows that the Bible is chock full of
fantasy stories, nonsense, wishful thinking and other untrustworthy
claims -- particularly if read in the modern "literal" sense? Modern
literalists have twisted the Bible beyond recognition, beyond sense.

I'm not overwhelmed, as of yet. I'll agree that there are stories
(Jonah and the 'fish', for a simple example) that seem to contradict
common sense. I'm unconvinced that there isn't some reasonable
explanation for each. But there's another topic for Talk.Theology

Bruce Salem is not surprised at your background.

Who's Bruce Salem?

Science is about testable hypotheses and evidence.

Totally agree.

If you prefer dogma that can't be verified and that is not
amenable to scientific scrutiny, there's nit much we can talk about.

That's an interesting one. I think that any assertion about the age
of the universe (or just the earth) is a kind of dogma that can't be
verified, but that nonetheless is amenable to scientific scrutiny. I
mean, the universe doesn't have a "born-on" date stamped into it
anywhere. There's no digital picture of the big bang.

You mean you can ignore all the evidence? Isn't that something like a mental
harikiri?


Similarly,
there's no digital photo of God creating the universe.

So called creation scientists insist that science actually supports
their literal biblical views.

What's wrong with that? Evolutionary scientists insist that science
actually supports their evolutionary views. Heliocentric scientists
insisted that science supported their heliocentric views. Flat-earth
scientists insist...

Isn't it obvious that most scientists interpret evidence in a way that
confirms their views until they encounter data that absolutely can't
be reconciled with their views?

Unfortunately they can't produce any scientific evidence that
supports their views. And neither can you.

I certainly can not - having no technical training in the relevant
fields. But perhaps they can. And here's the big one - perhaps
evolutionary-minded scientists can. Scientific data is scientific
data - it doesn't have a view. I think it's possible that
evolutionary scientists may one day find some piece of data that just
can't be reconciled with an old-universe perspective. Don't you?

The question is, should Genesis be interpreted as a news report --
that is, as a literally true,
factual account of a series of historical events -- or should it be
interpreted in a *non*-literal manner, perhaps as a metaphor or
something else?

Interesting question. I've been largely content with the 'metaphor'
description for some time, but I'm going to try to see what comes of
assuming the news report position.

If you don't think there's only one creation story, tell me,
please: Which did God create first, humans or horses?
<snip>
The upshot is, *both* Genesis 1 *and* Genesis 2 *cannot* be
literal, historical Truth, because by a literal, historical
reading, *those two chapters of Genesis CONTRADICT EACH OTHER*.
>> This is a bit of a problem for literal interpretation of Genesis,
not so?

I think it's an interesting puzzle, but I can only assume that
theologians have long ago found a satisfying explanation. If I was
researching horse fossils, maybe that would be something I would have
to explore, but until then, this isn't enough to make me throw out the
whole creation narrative.

Perhaps God is smart enough to use metaphors, or even speak in
parables which convey Truth even tho they aren't news reports. Or
perhaps not; you'll have to make that call yourself.

Agreed - and it's certainly true that the Bible uses metaphor and
parables to convey its principles. But that, on its own, doesn't give
me license to assume that the Genesis account is metaphorical.

I have never seen any reasonable argument that this interpretation
is
essential to the core values and beliefs of Christianity. There
are those,
some post here, who adhere to that and to more extreme views along
the lines
that if you accept evolution that automatically makes you an
atheist.

I've recently listened to a speaker who argued that critical Christian
beliefs about sin and death and redemption make no sense without a
literal 6-day creation. I haven't done the homework on that myself,
but it brought my attention to the fact that I've been ignoring the
possibility.

By the way, I don't think accepting evolution makes one an atheist.

I cannot see that even given the premise that the Bible is inspired
by God
it is at all necessary for it to be taken literally.

Agreed. When the Bible says God shelters us under his wings, it
doesn't mean he's a giant chicken. Lots of metaphorical language in
the Bible.

Fallible men wrote it and since the various parts were written it
has been translated and edited
many times and the context of the words as written is not the modern
context, so how you can say that every word is literally God's
intent by
reading the modern meanings of the English words is beyond reason.
This is
clearly illustrated every time the literalists cannot agree on the
literal
meaning.

An interesting topic for Talk.BibleAuthorship. My original post
claims that the text is inerrant in its original form - and again, I'm
just going on faith for that one, supported by corroborating personal
experience. Of course translation problems occur with any language.
Bible scholars are forever digging into the original language,
consulting the original manuscripts, to figure out what was going on
linguistically. But I'd argue that when literalists can't agree on
the intent of the Bible, that says more about fallible literalists,
and less about the Bible.

The literalist view forces you to choose and the choice often taken
is that
the Bible is authoritative on all things including science and thus
any
science that contradicts it must be false. You then spend your
life running
and hiding from the logical inconsistencies in the Book and between
this
view and observable reality. It must be deeply troubling to have
censor so
many observations and twist and turn to avoid yawning logical traps.

Forces you to choose? Agree. Asserting the Bible is true and
scientific observation doesn't mean what evolutionists argue it
means? Sure, why not? We're trying to answer unfathomable questions
of the nature of everything by scratching in the dust of a dinky
little planet in the middle of nowhere, cosmologically speaking.
Shouldn't we give each other a little bit of grace over the "yawning
logical traps?" Are you really asserting that evolution has no
yawning logical traps?

Keep your head above water by continuing to think and to observe.
Would He
give you a good brain and then require you not to use it?

I don't think so. Somewhere in the Bible, God says to mankind, "Come,
let us reason together." I'm on board with that plan.

You raise an interesting question of theology: how do you go about
determining if one biblical interpretation is better than another?

That's easy - you go read the FAQs at Talk.Hermeneutics. Just
teasing.

<snip interesting discussion of Isaiah>

So, what is your argument why a plain reading should be preferred
to a metaphorical (or folkloric) reading?

Not my argument, exactly - or at least, not yet. See my earlier
comment on consistency with certain New Testament statements, etc.

you're going to have to explain why He *cannot* have spoken
metaphorically in Genesis, and why
he allowed the fabric of creation to contradict His account of it.

I'm not trying to argue that God cannot have spoken metaphorically in
Genesis (it's clear the Bible uses metaphor elsewhere), but just that
he also could have spoken plainly and directly, and that Genesis
mostly seems to contain the plain kind of speaking. Abraham went
here, he camped on such-and-such a hill, etc. Surely it could be
metaphorical, but it *could* also mean exactly what it says.

Most creationists resolve this by creating God in their image: if
they cannot image how God could use evolution to create mankind,
then
God must not have been able to figure this out either and thus had
to
resort to miracles. As theologies go, I think you can do better.

Interesting - I'm actually exploring the opposite problem. I think
that a lot of creationists are *too* imaginative - looking for
complicated ways of making the Bible describe a billions-of-years-old
creation and compensate for scientific data about evolution and
cosmology, instead of poking at the data to see if the data can be
described in a way that matches what I'm calling a plain reading of
Genesis.

My own preferred counterexample to plain literalism is this:
Song of Solomon 4:4 - "Thy neck is like the tower of David builded
for
an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of
mighty men."
Now if read literally...

Let me stop you right there a second. It seems clear to me that this
text is using simile to make a comparison suggesting the strength of
the neck of the person being described. There's lots of text in the
Bible that uses standard literary devices (metaphor, simile, etc.) to
make vivid and interesting comparisons. I don't think this is a
counterexample, except inasmuch as you should not take text literally
that plainly is not meant to be.

The question now remains: which
parts of the Bible are literal and which are metaphorical,
allegorical
or analogical? If someone can come up with a way to do this
principledly, more power to them.

I believe that is the art and science of hermeneutics. I have a
friend who teaches a class on it at Moody Bible Institute here in
Chicago. But to answer your question, if you're suggesting I think
all Biblical text should be read literally, rest assured I don't.

Hi Mike, welcome on board!
<snip>
I am looking forward to see what questions you may ask. I may
attempt to
reply too if I think I have anything of value to say.

Thanks! Look forward to chatting with you. I agree with everything
you said, though I'd qualify your comments only by suggesting that
while faith ought not to trump facts and reason, I feel it should
inform what one believes about facts and the way in which one chooses
to reason.

So do you find that multiple lines of independent evidence converge
on
an age of the universe, earth and life in the mere 1000s of years?
And
are you prepared to critically analyze that evidence - all of it,
not
just the parts you like - and support it on it's own merits,
independent of any "weaknesses" you find in the data of mainstream
science (and OECs)?

Ooh - I'm way out of my depth there. I have done no original
research, and read little of the existing research on these multiple
lines of scientific exploration. Am I prepared to critically analyze
that evidence? Yes.

And would you have reached that conclusion had you never read the
Bible?

Hugely important question. No. I don't think just by looking at
existing evidence I would come to a conclusion of 1000s of years. I
can agree that the majority of the scientific community is acting in
good faith when they analyze data in front of them and determine
millions of years for rocks and billions of years for the universe. I
doubt, absent a presumption that the Bible is a trustworthy document,
that I would come up with a history of thousands of years for the
universe. Just knowing the speed of light and the distance to the
stars would be enough to rule out 1000s of years - IF that was all I
had to work with. But that's just the point. What happens if you
start (as I'm doing) from a presumption that the Bible is revealed
Truth, and then look at the data to see where it fits the Genesis
account and where it does not? I don't really know yet, and I'm
looking to find out.

While you're wading, have you posted this to the "big kids" at OEC
and
ID sites too?

This site was referenced by a conservative political commentator (yet
staunch evolutionist, interestingly) as a good place to engage in the
evolution/creation discussion. So far, I'm comfortable I've made a
good choice. Are you recommending other locations to start a thread?

Oops, I missed the "evolutionism." I'm smelling Loki.

The only thing that saved me from Googling that was the movie "The
Mask". Heh! No mischief meant here - I've been above-board about my
background, my reasoning framework and my motivations. Was I unclear
that I'm exploring the creationism end of the creationism/evolution
debate?

If you "accept" the inerrancy of the Bible as a matter of faith
then you
need to be careful not to stray into idolatry - worshipping the
Bible,
rather than God.

I can dig that.

Also, the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is of little interpretative
value; as interpretation of the Bible is not inerrant the Bible
might as
well not be inerrant.

Drifting into theological weeds a little bit, I'd argue that the
doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is extremely useful, inasmuch as that
allows the ability of clearly obvious parts of the Bible to illuminate
the interpretation of areas that are less clear. But again, I'm just
taking inerrancy as a given - I can't prove it, and I'm not really
planning to try. I just want to see what happens if one carries
forward that presumption.

And, as a Christian you would be expected to place more weight on
what
you are supposed to believe are the works of God (the world) than
on the
words of men (the Bible, and in particular interpretations of the
Bible).

Would be expected by whom? And don't forget, I'm operating under the
working axiom that the Bible is divinely inspired - that is, it was
written down by men, but accurately represents exactly what God
intended his created beings to know.

I do not believe that it is possible to reconstruct the intended
meaning
of Genesis at this remove, but as mentioned above, the internal
contradictions are a strong hint that it wasn't intended to be taken
literally.

I think theologians can argue in good faith that there are different
internally-consistent meanings for the Genesis account, and can accept
that theologians may never agree on the "intended meaning". But I
think that at least one of the possible meanings is the obvious one,
and I plan on exploring the implications of that belief system.

If you are to reject evidence at to the nature of the world in
favour of
an interpretation of the Bible then you are stumbling into
bibliolatry.

Now there we're hitting a principle that I find extremely intriguing.
I would not use the Bible to argue that the result of some scientific-
method-based, peer reviewed experiment is not producing the data that
it produces. But I think it's perfectly reasonable to reason from
both the naturalistic/evolutionary perspective and the creationist
perspective about the meaning of the data that such an experiment
provides. I think both perspectives are vulnerable to the trap of
arguing that any experimental data point proves anything about "the
nature of the world".

The name "Mike Hammond" is rather familiar, hasn't he posted here
before?
But Mikes are rather common on Usenet and I might be confusing him
with the guy from Jurassic Park.

Ha! No relation to John Hammond of Jurassic Park, nor to John Hays
Hammond, the inventor of radio-controlled guidance systems (sigh).
I don't think I've posted here before, but I won't rule it out either.

Merely rethinking won't do.
Only giving up thought altogether will work.

Oh, come now. There's no room for rational thought for someone
operating from a young-earth creationist point of view when evaluating
the results of scientific experimentation?

But if you don't mind me asking, why this regression?

Well, of course you can expect I don't accept the premise that this
new committment to look at evidence for origins as a regression, but
since you asked...
The church I attend put on a series of presentations some months back
laying out the argument for young-earth creationism, and I found it
intriguing. As said earlier, I've subscribed to the creation model of
origins just out of the nature of being a Christian (grew up Roman
Catholic, if anyone cares). This was the first time I saw a forceful
argument that the literal interpretation actually mattered to one's
understanding of Christian faith, and wasn't just an interesting
afterthought. So, if that's true, I decided, it was time to get in
the conversation.

Probably because YEC sells better to the "masses." That's why the
OECs
who bought into the ID scam discourage discussing the "when"
questions.

Not sure I agree there. YEC (hey, I'm picking up the lingo
already...) seems to me to be a shrinking, or even minority opinion
within the Christian community, and in my experience it makes
Christian friends I've talked to uncomfortable about the idea.
Frankly, it's a little vulnerable and embarrassing to be arguing for
an age for the universe that is 6 orders of magnitude different from a
large body of committed scientists with impressive credentials in
their resumes. I think a lot of Christians are running from YEC as
fast as they can. I know of a pastors of churches who are OEC. Some
impressive theologians are OEC. For what it's worth.

Do not claim to have an open mind if you are committed to being a
young earth creationists (YEC). One of the common mistakes that the
anti science creationist faction makes to to lie about what they
believe and their motivations. That may sound sad, but it is common
to have people claiming to be agnostic and then have them spouting
Bible verses when they run into reality.

Here's the state of my mind - you may consider it closed-minded. I'm
going to stand on the idea that YEC is Truth, and see where that
leads. That may lead to some difficult-to-accept propositions, and
I'll have to deal with that when it comes up. You're right that
creationists hold something of a Get-Out-Of-Yawning-Logical-Gaps Free
card, inasmuch as I'm arguing for analyzing evidence from a
perspective that is, admittedly, supernatural. At the last resort,
the creationist can always fall back to the position that the science
is wrong, the Bible is right, and we should wait another couple of
thousand years for the science to catch up with the truth of the
Bible. Part of my exploration is to see where the frontiers of that
thought-space lie - at what point(s) do I have to say, "There's no
logical reason for that outside of naturalistic evolution" or else say
"Well, God must have wanted it that way". In the interest of full
disclosure, I'll admit that my bias naturally leans toward the second
option in those situations. I think it's perfectly obvious to point
out that there's a lot that we don't know, and logical to posit that
there are some things that we either can't know, or will never know
before the sun boils away the seas.

There is no real science worth spit that backs up YEC. Negative
arguments against some other position don't count for much if
anything. Anyone that solves real life problems knows that fact.

Well, here's the thing. I don't think that any YEC should have any
reason to doubt that "real science" is not fairly arriving at the data
it's producing. The amount of carbon-14 in a rock is the amount of
carbon-14 in a rock, and there's no Bible verse anyone can quote that
will say it isn't. But what's interesting is how we interpret that
number. If an experiment produces a data point, and it supports
creationism but not evolutionism, does that on its own not make it
"worth spit"? What if that experiment supports both points of view?
Is science only "worth spit" if it supports the naturalistic point of
view?

The Bible is not a scientific work.

Agreed.

It is basically worthless in this debate unless you want to argue
theology

Don't agree. I'm treating the Bible as the reference point for my
argumentation, with all the logistical difficulties that entails. I'm
not really equipped to argue theology, just as I'm not trained to
measure the speed of light.

and this may not be the best venue for that.

Perhaps. So far this crowd seems to be fair-minded and willing to
converse. That's good enough for me.

What you need is actual evidence that the world might
have been created in a week only a few thousand years ago.

I suppose that's what the creation scientists are up to. But I'm
interested in exploring to what extent existing data (whoever fairly
produced it) supports the YEC perspective. Certainly I won't be doing
any original research on this subject, so I'll need to rely on my
assessment of the results produced by others. That puts me at
something of a disadvantage perhaps, but a common one.

Basically you have to present your model and the evidence to back it
up. If you know any science you know that you basically have
nothing,
so that is where you are stuck as a starting point.

My model, for the purposes of this exploration, is YEC. My argument
is that the existing data can be interpreted in a way that is
compatible with YEC.

We can all agree that it is possible that some god created the
world yesterday after
you supposedly wrote this post, with all our memories intact, and
all
the evidence that something existed before yesterday, but that
isn't science.

That brings up an interesting point. What role, if any, do you think
science can play in the process of "supporting" a supernatural claim?
It's perfectly evident what role it can play in arguing against such a
claim. Is any argument that supports a supernatural claim inherently
unscientific, and why?

Good luck.

I doubt this will have anything to do with luck, but thank you.

On the one hand, there is the question as to why anyone would think
that the Bible was meant to be taken this way. What in the Bible is
there that says that? There are several places which assert a non-
literal reading.

Not to be ponderous about it, but - that's what it says. Evening and
morning, the second day... On the third day... yadda yadda. I think
that's a pretty good reason to posit that this is how it was meant to
be taken. The plain meaning is clear, though scientific data
currently argues it's ridiculous.
Certainly there are areas of the bible that suggest - or even demand -
non-literal readings. But I think it's perfectly tenable that Genesis
need not be one of those. It's rational to argue that there is a
plain meaning in Genesis that is unambiguous (plus or minus questions
about horses and the like).

On the other hand, there is enough in the Bible which has been taken
to support geocentrism. While things like the literal, ordinary 24
hour day have been questioned by people like Augustine, it seems
that
no one questioned the daily motion of the Sun around the Earth for
some 2000 years (500 BC to AD 1500 or so).

I'll may have to look into that one at some point. I'm a little
curious about what the Biblical support for heliocentrism was, but
heliocentrism/geocentrism is really not the issue that I'm interested
in exploring. Whatever that biblical support was, I doubt that it was
as explicit as the very detailed account of the other elements of
creation described in Genesis. I have to wonder if geocentrists of
their day had similar concerns about the integrity of other areas of
the Bible if their understanding of the Genesis account was
compromised. Food for thought, perhaps, but I'll let the science
historians tackle that one.

Hi, Mike. I'm an atheist, I used to be a Christian.
I think that what I want to say to you is that to appreciate and
enjoy
and take stewardship of the world that we live in, which I recommend
as our role in it, you should understand clearly what it is, which
isn't necessarily what an anonymous document written before science
was popular says it is.

Maybe, but let's see what happens when operating from the presumption
that the Bible is an eyewitness account from the one individual who
claims perfectly true knowledge of origins.

There is a "tradition" that the first five "books" of the bible were
all written by Moses, but real scholarship finds that they were put
together from multiple documents at a time much later than whenever
Moses is supposed to have lived.

My understanding is 'real scholarship' of the text of the Bible is a
similarly wide-ranging discussion of conservative and liberal
positions about authorship and so on. Interesting, but outside the
scope of what I want to explore.

My atheist opinion is that there isn't a need to look for the six
biblical days to be other than the ordinary period of time of that
name, but that the story simply isn't true: quite a simple answer. I
imagine that for you it will be difficult to accept that God's
revelation contains fictions, fables, and untruths - it was for me -

Well, sure. I'm operating from the principle that it's all correct.
Accepting that list of things contradicts the fundamental axiom of my
study.

so let me suggest to you that whether any one part of the bible is
true or not, doesn't necessarily matter, but only when it becomes
relevant.

Stepping into slippery areas of amateur theology again, I'd argue that
if any part of the bible were completely, unambiguously false, then
the whole document becomes suspect as a basis of a worldview. At that
point, it's a book that may have true statements in it, or ideas that
are worth putting to use, but then it becomes just another self-help
book.

(Also, when Jesus tells stories, are they all true
stories?) We've got at least one someone here who professes that
the
sun orbits around the earth, not the other way around, although I
think they may be shamming for fun; I'm going to guess that you
aren't
of that party.

Ha! No - I'm perfectly happy with heliocentrism. Were Jesus'
parables recount actual events? I'm not sure it matters. It's a
bonus if they are (though that's probably historically unprovable),
but no loss to the teaching principles in the stories if they are
not. To me, that's another interesting debate for the theologians.

A proper understanding of the nature of the universe and of the
origin
of the species of living things on the Earth is important now if we
hope to continue living on the Earth ourselves - or off it - because
humans are now crowding many, many of the world's millions of
species
into extinction - once they're gone, they're gone, and that's bad
stewardship - and if we /don't/ kill them all off in the end, then
it's rather likely that somewhere in outer space there's an asteroid
that will: those fellows hit us from time to time, awfully hard,
exactly (well, more or less) like in those movies. These are just a
couple of the issues that we should pay attention to, and we have to
set the bible aside to do it.

Wow. Totally disagree with that last statement. Take away the
Bible's directives to be good stewards of the Earth, and you lose a
big incentive for a lot of people to care about the environment. Not
saying that there's no other source for that instinct, but isn't it
arguable that one of the big reasons for protecting other species (and
humans) from extinction is because God created them?

Anyway, let's briefly look at the six days. One of my favourite
glitches in the story is that God creates plants on land but not in
the water. (As far microscopic microbes, I'll let him create after
"heaven and earth" and before he invented days: it doesn't say that
that happened straight away, and the bible author surely didn't know
that microbes exist.)
Another is that the sky gets light in the day and dark at night well
before the Sun is created, whereas it's fairly well accepted
nowadays
that the Sun /makes/ the sky light in the daytime. Incidentally,
the
Earth turns in space in about 23 hours 56 minutes (the siderial
day);
because the Earth also orbits around the Sun, the time from "Sun
overhead" to "Sun overhead" is different, and of course more
important, for practical purposes.

Sure. Space travel, having accurate calendars, stuff like that. I'm
with you there. As to the other things, my goal isn't really to go
into detailed defenses of every element of the Genesis account. For
the purposes of my effort, it's adequate to say that the Genesis
account can be considered a legitimate description of the origin of
the all things, and makes statements in whose light current evidence
can be evaluated.

In fact, the universe has existed, gradually developing, since an
origin about 13.7 billion years ago.

Okay - that's a big one. In what sense is that a fact? I'd agree
that scientists have a consensus view that the origin of the universe
was 13.7 billion years ago. But that's very different from stating it
as fact. Facts are directly observable things that come out of
repeatable experiments. Experiments don't tell you the age of
something - age isn't an inherent characteristic of objects. You
can't take apart an object until you get to the place where its age is
stored. The best scientists can hope for is to produce data points,
and then argue the interpretation of those data points to support
particular models. But those interpretations can be flawed (see: Flat
Earthers)

the Sun has been burning for about five billion years and is good
for another five (or, I'm sure I
read somewhere, getting overall very gradually hotter, making
Earth's
orbit uninhabitable - when the seas evaporate it's all over - in a
mere one billion years - but that could be just me), Earth itself
basically finished building about 4.5 billion ybp (years before
present, or specifically before 1950 - it's to do with radioactive
isotope dating), and for about five-sixths of the time since then,
it
had either nothing, or nothing but the microscopic microbes, living
on
it - and no air fit for us to breathe for a long while, either; life
that's large enough to make proper fossils is comparatively recent
in
appearance, notably in the "Cambrian explosion", a series of
developments that took place a mere 0.6 billion years ago.
Dinosaurs
showed up about 230 million years ago, and you've probably heard the
rest.

None of us has samples of the air from 4.5 billion years ago, or of
ocean water, or soil samples. All we have is today's air, water, and
soil. Anything that takes existing data points and abstracts
backwards in time is going to be limited by the assumptions about what
those data points say about the past. The further back you go, the
more unlikely it is that your assumptions account for all the events
that may have occurred in the past. You state a lot of things
confidently here, and they make a very reasonable narrative given the
data that scientists have collected, but I wouldn't classify any of
them as facts.

I am not sure you are in the right place.
The question of whether the author of Genesis
intended to "days" in the first creation story to
refer to periods of 24 hours, is a theological question
and/or a question of literary history.

Agreed. I don't intend to debate that point, except tangentially.

The question of whether the first creation story
in Genesis, however interpreted, should be considered
a journalistic account is theological.

Sure, but nothing stops me from evaluating existing origins
scholarship against the claims of that story.

The question of whether the first creation story in
Genesis should be considered to be the truth
[as opposed to other creation stories, I like the Raven
myself but I have always had a liking for trickster gods]
is a fundamental question of what "truth"
is and how one determines it.

Agreed.

These questions are only peripherally related to
the evolution/creation (there's a false dichotomy
if I ever saw one) debate. (Not that you won't get
lots of opinions here, some even well informed.).
The question of how well the first creation story
in Genesis fits with mainstream scientific theory
(badly, or if the "days" are considered to be 24 hours,
very badly) has a simple answer as there is not
much debate on what the mainstream scientific
theory is (the debate centres on whether it is
"true").

Forgive me, but I think that was a non-sequitur. It sounds like you
said there that the question of how well Genesis matches mainstream
thinking is answered by the fact that everybody knows what the
mainstream thinking is. How does that answer the question?

Most of the debate around here centres on the question
of the consistency or lack thereof of mainstream
scientific thinking. (e.g. is the theory of Natural Selection
self-consistent?; is the observed fossil record
consistent with Evolution?) It is not clear that you
want to discuss these issues. Even if you do
I would suggest you first visit the talk.origins
faqs and perhaps "anwersingenesis.org" to see what
has already been said. (But if you present an
argument from "answers in genesis" without
checking the talk.origins faqs you will be
mocked)

I did take a quick scan of the FAQs, and found the perspectives there
slanted rather heavily in favor of the evolutionist perspective.
Perhaps that shouldn't have surprised me, but I was expecting a more
even-handed treatment of the creationist view. Forgive me if I tread
on ground that's been covered before.

As has been pointed out by others, the two versions of Genesis have
obvious and blatant contradictory features (in addition to being
contradicted by empirical reality -- the universe is not, in fact, a
mere few thousand years old, life on this planet was not 'poofed'
into
existence in a single day).

Slow down a second there. Empiricism rests on the idea of sensory
experience as the only source of true knowledge. With which of your
senses do you detect the age of the universe, or the duration of time
within which the Earth was formed? Those aren't factual statements
you're making - that's your belief system talking, right?

So the question arises, were the people
who wrote it incapable of reasoned thought? Were they stupid? Or
was
it written in such a context that the literal truth-ness or
consistency of the text does not matter? I would argue for the
latter. They weren't stupid. They were capable of reasoned
thought.
Their description has a definite "message", but one that differs
from
the literal interpretation, which is unsurprising for a creation
myth.

I don't see why that conclusion is necessary. Genesis tells a very
deliberate, detailed creation story. It's not stupid to suggest it
was written that way because that's exactly how it happened.

The people who wrote this down were living in a world in which what
we
now consider to be inanimate objects like the "sun", the "moon", and
the "earth" were all gods and the rulers of countries/tribes had
arrogated unto themselves the title of "demi-god". Often these
'gods'
interfered with humans and each demanded their own sacrifices to
prevent catastrophe (disease, famine, slavery or involuntary
servitude). The tribe of the Israelites, OTOH, had only one god and
rejected the idea of many gods and human demi-gods. So, in their
creation myth (myth is not a perjorative term; it is often a way of
telling a story, particularly in tribes and before writting, often
with relevant lessons -- consider it a parable, which is also a
story
whose literal truth or falsness doesn't matter) they insist on the
one
god, who 'created' the sun, the moon, the earth, and the creatures
they saw among them. The "meaning" of such a myth is that the
heavens
and earth were, explicitly, not independent gods. Moreover, in
their
myth, *all* humans were created from the same 'dust'. There were no
demi-gods that came down from the heavens to rule over ordinary
humans. [That much of the writing down appears to come through
times
of enslavement might have something to do with this viewpoint. The
Torah likely was a written version of an older oral tradition
(around 1000 BC), so it is not surprising that there is some
variation in the
text. Ever play "telephone"?]

We're largely on the same page there. My (again amateur) theology
suggests that God meant for the story to deliberately exclude the
possibility of other gods, specifically sun gods, moon gods, etc.

In such a context, the fact that this creation myth does not match
modern scientific knowledge is irrelevant, as is the internal
contradictions in the text. And the message that is being sent
about
the distinction between what is "real" and what is "god" and the
equality of humans (albeit, there is the typical tribal inequality
in
the role of women) is still a valid "message" that the
metaphorically-
challenged Biblical literalist completely ignores. Of course, the
metaphorically-challenged Biblical literalist claims that the
authors were not writing down ancient creation stories, but had a
pipeline
directly from God. I see no reason to accept that than I do to
accept
that Harold Camping has a direct pipeline to God.

And I'm not really asking you to. I'm operating from a framework that
says the authors were writing down *the* ancient creation story, but
it's not my purpose to demand that other people see things the same
way.

By the way, Harold Camping is an embarrassment. A plain reading (I'm
fond of those) of the Bible should tell him what he's doing is
pointless.

This /is/ an OEC and ID "site". All opinions may be discussed here,
at your own risk, of very heavy criticism.

I'll consider myself fairly warned. Thanks!

But, if it is true, (and a plain reading of the Bible makes it
clear that its author believes it is true), then that means I
need to rethink some of my concepts about the nature of the
universe as I perceive it.
Or your position on the Bible's inerrancy.

Perhaps you noticed that useful *IF* at the beginning of my
sentence... :)

I think it can be said fairly that Christians rarely doubted that
events described in the bible had historically happened just as they
were described, until, in particular, evidence of geology, rather
than
biology, forced investigators to consider that natural processes on
the Earth have been operating for far longer than bible dates for
the
age of the world allow. I don't know whether people were separately
worried about other incidents such as God stopping the motion of the
Sun one day (and the Moon), which heliocentrists would have to
understand as stopping the motion of the Earth - which is about 1000
miles an hour on the equator - without other chroniclers around the
world noticing and mentioning it.

So far so good - I'm with you.

Christians then started to consider that either various kinds of
exception applied, or that the Genesis origin was some kind of
metaphor, allegory, or fable. They did this principally because
there
was very strong evidence that it wasn't journalism. There may have
been a secondary recognition that God is constructing the world in
rather the same way that Old Macdonald constructs his farm in the
song, and that isn't a literal account, either.

Jews and Muslims must consider the same things too, I expect.
Mormons, even?
Not to dig too deep into OldMacdonaldism, but I hope we can agree that
we can't scientifically prove or disprove that Old Macdonald did or
did not, in fact, have a farm at some point in the past. Though I do
have an interesting analysis of audio samples of kids making clapping
sounds that strongly suggest a creation date for Macdonald's farm in
the days just before some sort of catastrophic worldwide flood.
Clearly, that's what all the the EEE! Aaaaaiii! EEE! Aaaaiiii! Oh!
was about.

And now, you are wrestling with several questions, which you might
be
mistaking for one question: did the bible writer mean actual days in
the context of the story? And did he believe that it was an
accurate
description of the origin of the world and of living things? And is
it an accurate description?
I propose (1) yes and (2 and 3) no - it was only intended as a
fable.

Not sure how hard I'm wrestling, exactly. For the purpose of
argumentation, I'm starting from default positions of Yes for each of
those three questions.

And I propose that you are trying to avoid that conclusion not
because
you are comfortable with it being true and not a fable, but because
you fear that either God, or your pastor, or your friends at church,
will hold it against you. Or because you fear that in fact the
devil
is using reasonability and your own intelligence to mislead you into
doubting God's words.
But these are not reasonable arguments in a question of fact.

Just speaking personally, I find myself wondering if I've allowed
myself to ignore the plain meaning of the opening chapter of the book
that defines my spiritual existence simply because there's a loud
crowd of passionate people declaring it can't be true. I'm exploring
the implications of the possibility that I was being too hasty.

Agreed that none of that is directly relevant to the subject of
analyzing data about origins. Just sharing what's animating me.

You sound very much like Kurt Wise: An intelligent man who
understands
the science, but who also sees so many contradictions with Biblical
inerrancy that he has to make a definite choice between one and the
other.
And like Kurt Wise, you've chosen to stick with Biblical inerrancy.

Just read the Wikipedia blurb - thanks for the link. I agree that I'm
thinking much in the same way he purportedly does.

There's no real way around that. Modern science and Biblical
inerrancy
are incompatible. You can't reconcile modern geology, astronomy,
and
astrophysics with the Universe being created in 6 24 hour days.

Well, there's the big question to me. Can I stand on the inerrancy of
the Bible and confidently state that all the data around me can be
interpreted in that context? And if not, where's the limitations of
that perspective?

Unless you resort to Omphalos-like solipsism, in which God created
the
Universe in 6 24-hour days by making it *look* like it's far
older--a
cosmic fake, in other words.
But Omphalos requires a God capable of massive deception--would you
really want to pray to such a God? And should we emulate such a God
by
being liars and deceivers ourselves?

The problem, to me, is taking fallible mankind's data as the starting
point, and asking what's wrong with a perfect and holy creator God. A
hardened YEC would probably turn that around the other way, wondering
why we even entertain the idea that the universe is billions of years
old when the Bible plainly says it's only 6000 years? A determined
literalist view might include a statement like the following: "The
universe *does* look 6000 years old because it is 6000 years old.
What's wrong with the way we are measuring it (or wrong with our our
assumptions about the meaning of our measurements) that gives an
answer that is wrong by six orders of magnitude?"

Take a look at this book:
James L. Kugel
The Bible As It Was
Belknap Press of Harvard U. Press, 1997
It gives a sampling of the ways that the Bible was read by
Christians
and Jews for a few centuries around the turn of the "common era".
They
were very imaginative.

I may at some point, but my goal is not to take a survey of all the
imaginative interpretations of the Bible, but to explore the
scientific implications of a very particular one, and not a very
imaginative one, at that. Thank you for the kind suggestion.

I see you accept Biblical inerrancy on faith. Faith is a good
thing to have, and I certainly don't have anything against
positions held by faith. I am a Christian, who does not accept
Biblical inerrancy, but my belief in God is also a matter of faith.
I accept the science of evolution, and I believe that God made use
of evolution as his means of creation. That too is a matter of
faith to me.
I hope you can understand that it's possible to be a Christian, and
accept the science of evolution as well.

I do understand that. I don't think authentic Christian belief exists
exclusive of evolutionary beliefs, but I worry about the implications
of accepting "on faith" the belief that all life arose spontaneously
in contradiction of (what seems to me) clear Biblical statements that
it didn't.

Whether or not you accept evolution is your own business. I do
suggest you read Dr. Kenneth Miller's book "Finding Darwin's God".
Miller is a devout Catholic who combines his scientific background
with his religious beliefs. Again, whether or not you agree with
Dr. Miller, I hope you can accept that such a position exists.
One does not have to be an atheist to accept evolution.

Agreed. But you may need to deliberately set aside explicit Biblical
descriptions of origins to do so.

Well, you said you accept the principle of Biblical inerrancy as a
matter of faith. That implies evidence doesn't come into it for
you. In
that case, what's the problem ? You can agree that all the evidence
shows evolution (and cosmology) happened, and you still choose to
believe it happened definitely just because.
As long as you don't distort the science and don't impose your
faith on
others, who cares.

To me, it's axiomatic that if Genesis is reporting a literal 6-day
creation, the sum total of all accurately gathered evidence will fit
into the Genesis picture. So evidence definitely comes into the
picture. I don't want to deny that existing data provides support for
the evolutionary view, necessarily. I want to argue that it also fits
into a creationistic view.

Aesop once wrote a story about a boy who cried "wolf" when there
was no
wolf, repeatedly, until people stopped listening to him even when
the
wolf came. The plain meaning of that story is that once, long ago,
there
was such a boy who had such neighbors, and the story ended there.
Do you
think, though, that Aesop might have intended something more with
that
story? that he might want us to draw some lesson that could be
applied
today, even if we live where wolves are not a problem?

Well of course. Aesop's fables were all written with that intent. In
a lot of cases, the lesson is named explicitly following the story.
If you're implying by analogy that God meant for there to be something
more to the story of which day He created what - then yes. I'd argue
that God meant for us to know that He cares a great deal for mankind
that He wanted him to know with some specificity how He created the
universe. I'd argue that He has a special care for humanity, and that
when He speaks, things happen as he said. I could go on and on, but
you take my point.

I happen to agree with you that the plain reading of Genesis 1 is
that
God created the world in six literal 24-hour days. And if I wanted
the
Bible to be completely irrelevant to anybody's life, that is just
how I
would interpret it.

I mean, that's the big challenge, right? Is Genesis 1 still
legitimate for use as a demonstration of God's sovereign will and care
for humanity, or is it an outdated relic of an era of unaccountable
superstition? That's a rhetorical question - if you were wondering.

You don't need to re-think any Pentateuchal or science concepts. A
scriptural Old Earth is based on Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 1:2.
The
latter verse preserves a record of pre-Adamic regression. From
verse 3
onward is a RE-creation account. This is why God told Adam to RE-
plenish the Earth (as opposed to plenish). The creation days (re-
creation of the biosphere) do not, in any way, indicate a young
Earth,
but a young biosphere. Our present biosphere (post-Flood) is also
young.

Interesting perspective - old universe, young earth. Thanks for the
idea - I'm going to try it the old-fashioned way and see how it goes.
Young universe, young earth.

A word about evolution and Atheism:
Since no God exists, Atheists have no choice but to believe that
species originate species (evolution). This renders all of their
conclusions predetermined. Beware:The Evolutionists at this website
(Talk.Origins) exist to deny this self-evident fact. They love
Christians who bow their knee to Darwin at the expense of God, His
Son
and the Bible. Richard Dawkins is famous for saying "Darwin made it
possible to be an intellectually fulfilled [A]theist." This is why
all
Atheists accept, defend and promote evolution. I urge you to
consider
these facts.

There's that troublesome word *fact* again. I'll take your opinions
about the other visitors to this site under advisement - much obliged.

---------------------

Okay - I think that addresses all the principal points you all brought
up.

Let me go ahead and open the floodgates. Where do I start reading the
results of contemporary origins-related research? Naturally, my
inclination is towards those places where the science directly bears
on areas that conflict with Biblical assertions in the Genesis
account.

Mike


.



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