Ruse on Religion

Michael Ruse has this interesting op-ed in the Florida newspaper The Tallahassee Democrat. He begins:

This has been a good year for evolutionists. First, at the end of 2005, a judge in Pennsylvania – a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush – decreed that so-called Intelligent Design Theory is not genuine science and hence cannot be taught in publicly funded science classrooms.

Intelligent Design Theory – Creationism Lite – is the latest attempt by religious fundamentalists, biblical literalists, to argue that the origins of organisms were not evolutionary but the result of injections of divine power. In other words, God was not prepared or able to let things unfurl naturally according to unbroken law, but got directly involved through miracles. The judge rightly ruled that this is not science, it is religion, and violates the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

Well said. I haven’t always approved of some of Ruse’s recent activities. He strikes me as way too friendly with the ID folks, and his criticisms of people like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett are very unfair. But when he actually sits down to write about evolution, he always does a good job.

But I was especially interested in the closing of the article:

The cry will go up that people like me – people who think you can be an evolutionist and equally be a sincere Christian or Jew or Muslim (or whatever) – are simply wrong. It will be said that we ignore traditional religion and embrace some newly fabricated, modern illusion. This is simply not true. Christianity (to speak of just one religion) has always had in it the power and necessity to interpret the Bible metaphorically, if the science dictates. St. Augustine, around 400 A.D., insisted that the Bible is written in the language of primitive folk and that we who come later must interpret it according to the knowledge of our day. I am not saying that Augustine himself was an evolutionist – although as it happens, since he believed that God stands outside time, he did think that God created seeds of life that then develop. I am saying that traditional religion demands that we use that which makes us in God’s image, namely our powers of sense and reason.

So let us celebrate the findings of science. Darwin’s finches are drab little birds, living on outcrops of hot, inhospitable, volcanic rock, in the middle of the ocean. But they tell us more about the wonderful world in which we live, and of our powers of understanding, than do years of misguided poring through the leaves of the early chapters of the Old Testament.

I agree with what Ruse is saying here, and I especially like that last paragraph. But I also think the fundamentalists have a point in protesting the willingness of people like Ruse to interpret the Bible metaphorically. The creation story in Genesis sure reads like history. There’s nothing in the text itself to suggest that it is anything but a description of actual historical events.

To many Christians, Ruse’s suggestion seems like substituting fallible human judgments for the holy word of God. After all, why would God present his Word in a form so vague and malleable that it must be reinterpreted in the light of every new scientific discovery to come down the line? And if you concede that the Bible is routinely wrong in scientific matters (as all sensible people should concede), then why does it retain any worth when addressing moral or historical questions? If the merits of its empirical statements must be assessed on the basis of outside sources of knowledge, why shouldn’t we also assess it’s moral claims on the basis of non-Biblical sources? Either the Bible is the holy and inerrant word of God, or it is an ancient document written by people with no more claim to authority than any other document that has survived from that time. It’s hard to find a logically consistent middle ground.

Ruse generally describes himself as an agnostic and a skeptic of traditional religious claims. With that in mind, I find the following statement from him interesting:

…Rabbi Slifkin shows us that modern science is in the end a wonderful hymn to what God has wrought, and its appreciation enriches our lives and makes possible an even greater respect for, and love of, the Author of all things. (Ellipsis in original)

I found this statement on the back of the recent book The Challenge of Creation: Judaism’s Encounter With Science, Cosmology and Evolution by Rabbi Natan Slifkin. This book turned up in my mailbox today, and I expect to have much more to say about it once I’ve had a chance to read it. But Ruse’s statement struck me as inconsistent with his past statements on this subject. It sure sounds like he is saying that he agrees with the Rabbi’s conclusions. On the other hand, he might have meant something more like, “Rabbi Slifkin shows how it is possible for a religious person to use an understanding of modern science to deepen his appreciation of God’s work.”

UPDATE: The Ruse quote above appears on the back cover of the book. I have just noticed that the full quote appears in the book’s frontmatter. It doesn’t clarify very much, but here is the whole statement:

No one could read this book without being aware of the author’s deeply spiritual nature and his absolute devotion to the faith of his fathers. At the same time, one meets a man for whom the world is God’s creation and it is for us, made in God’s image, to go forward bravely exploring and trying to understand this creation. Rabbi Slifkin shows us that modern science is in the end a wonderful hymn to what God has wrought, and its appreciation enriches our lives and makes possible an even greater respect for, andlove of, the Author of all things.

Comments

  1. #1 David Heddle
    July 24, 2006

    And if you concede that the Bible is routinely wrong in scientific matters (as all sensible people should concede),

    Gee, Jason, you wouldn’t be begging the question here, would you? When is the bible wrong scientifically? Perhaps that it unambiguously states that our universe had a beginning, in opposition to Einstein and Eddington, who insisted that it didn’t?

    I consider myself sensible, and I don’t concede that the bible is “routinely” wrong scientifically (and am always prepared to make a defense thereof), nor do I insist that in the few, rare instances where the bible makes something that might be interpreted as a scientific statement does one have to interpret it metaphorically to avoid disaster.

    Of course, having gone this route many times I can predict how the argument will go:

    1. Objections will be made to some events being described miracles, as if you can believe in God but you cannot allow him to be supernatural-that’s just not fair. The objections will be along the lines of: “Well then, with that loophole you can call anything a miracle.” even though miracles constitute a small fraction of the biblical text and are easily identified. Some people just cannot grasp that if you cannot prove that a person can walk on water, then the bible is incompatible with science.

    2. Interpretations must be hyper-literal, or they are a “cop out.” Thus the day-age interpretation of which I am a proponent is disallowed because, while not a metaphorical interpretation like, say, the framework view, it is not a yom=24 hours view. (It is, in fact, a literal view of the Genesis account.) Here the anti-biblicist aligns himself, strangely, with the fundamentalists and argues that any old-earth interpretation is heresy–he wants the young-earth view to be the only acceptable biblical view because the young earth view is, scientifically, trivially shown to be wrong.

    3. Biblical statements that are not intended as scientific will be used to demonstrate that the bible makes scientific error. These are the pi=3 class of argument, which are more accurately described the “ancients must have been idiots” fallacy.

    In short, if you want to test the bible scientifically, you must argue that it makes statements that are demonstrably false in any reasonable interpretation. In attempting this, you’ll find that there are very few such potential cases. That our universe was not steady-state is one–perhaps the only unambiguous one–and the bible won that debate. That the universe is old is not an example–because the day-age interpretation of genesis is consistent with an old universe. There is ample chance for the bible to make a demonstrably false statement in the Genesis account that could not be “rescued” by the day-age view–for example it could get the order of the fossil record wrong, claiming that mammals preceded sea life. (Go on–challenge me regarding trees). But it doesn’t.

    But it’s your dime, so you are free to assert that all really smart people concede that the bible is wrong. But I would have expected a better argument from you than proof by assertion.

  2. #2 SLC
    July 24, 2006

    The bible unequivocally states that Joshua made the sun stand still. This statement is totally in contradiction to two accepted scientific principles.

    1. The only reasonable interpretion which can be made is that the bible is saying that the sun goes around the earth (don’t state the cop out that the sun and earth revolve around a common center of mass; the center of mass of the two objects is interior to the sun). The bible is obviously seriously in error here.

    2. The result of the sun standing still would be that the earth would stop rotating which would cause its surface to dissolve; in addition, as it would be stopped in its orbit, it would immediately fall into the sun. Since that didn’t happen, the bible is obviously seriously in error.

  3. #3 Ick of the East
    July 25, 2006

    …..More people want to ignore the real truths of Genesis – about God as Creator and about our special relationship to him.

    I guess we have differing definitions of “real thruths”.

    Until someone can show how this Biblical god is any more real than Hubbard’s Emperor Xenu, I’ll put it into a category other than “real”.

  4. #4 Joe
    July 25, 2006

    Heddle said:

    “When is the bible wrong scientifically? Perhaps that it unambiguously states that our universe had a beginning, in opposition to Einstein and Eddington, who insisted that it didn’t?
    I consider myself sensible…”

    I’d hardly call that a ground-breaking scientific idea at any time in human history. Every culture has a creation myth; that everything has a beginning would be the natural thing to conclude without much to go on. In other words…big deal. Heddle, maybe you should reconsider thinking of yourself as sensible, nothing that you’ve ever said has made that obvious to me.

  5. #5 Nat Whilk
    July 25, 2006

    Jason:

    Somewhere in your voluminous readings on evolution, you must have encountered Ken Miller. Do you consider his thoughts on faith to be “logically inconsistent”?

  6. #6 Billy Carson
    July 25, 2006

    “The creation story in Genesis sure reads like history. There’s nothing in the text itself to suggest that it is anything but a description of actual historical events.”

    Except that it’s absolutely impossible. For a very long time, this has been taken as evidence that it shouldn’t be read literally.

    Not by everybody, of course. But two hundred years before Augustine, there was another African bishop name of Origen who insisted that scripture should not always be read literally. In fact, he found literal readings of Genesis rather laughable:

    “For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars?”
    (That’s from De Principiis, an online translation of which can be found at:
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen125.html)

    Origen was a literalist: he believed that scripture was infallible. But, being able both to read and think at the same time, he also realized that scripture contains a lot of fiction. In these cases one must resort to a spiritual — he called it “allegorical” — interpretation. And in fact, an impossible story is one of God’s ways of telling us that an allegorical interpretation is intended.

    Yes, Origen’s allegorical readings are a dodge. But still, it’s nice to notice that at least some Christians faced with facts acknowledge that there is something wrong with their interpretation and not something wrong with the facts. And that there’s a long Christian tradition of doing so.

  7. #7 mark
    July 25, 2006

    But I would have expected a better argument from you than proof by assertion.

    Let’s look to Intelligent Design, where we get “poof” by assertion.
    How should we explain today’s biodiversity following the Noachan bottleneck of a few thousand years ago? How do we reconcile contradictory duplications of Bible stories? And is “hyper-literal” something like “more pregnant”–if not, what are the criteria for relaxing literal interpretations?

  8. #8 Rob Knop
    July 25, 2006

    There’s nothing in the text itself to suggest that it is anything but a description of actual historical events.

    The fact that the second chapter of Genesis presents a creation story that contradicts the creation story of the first chapter is a pretty solid clue….

    -Rob

  9. #9 David Heddle
    July 25, 2006

    Rob,

    The fact that the second chapter of Genesis presents a creation story that contradicts the creation story of the first chapter is a pretty solid clue

    No, it doesn’t.

    But let’s accept this oft parroted claim. Then I have a question for you.

    What is your explanation as to why the Jews never corrected such an obvious blunder? Were they just too dumb to see that the first two chapters of their holy book were conflicting? Here I am assuming that you, like everyone else who makes this claim, thinks that the contradiction is obvious, rather than subtle. They have had roughly three millennia to see the problem. Why do you suppose they missed it?

    And all the learned theologians down through the ages–why did they ignore it? While you might comfort yourself that in the modern scientific age all theologians are bumpkins, surely you agree that in pre-modern times they were the west’s great intellectuals–Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc–and while they discussed many interpretative difficulties with certain scriptures, they never fretted over Genesis 1 vs. Genesis 2 being a conundrum. Why do you think that is so?

  10. #10 Dom
    July 25, 2006

    “… origins of organisms were not evolutionary but the result of injections of divine power”

    Big mistake there. You should have picked up on it.

  11. #11 Jason Rosenhouse
    July 25, 2006

    David-

    The Day Age theory is a preposterous interpretation of the text of Genesis. This is one of the few points where the young-Earthers actually have a decent argument to make. The context in which the term day is used in Genesis makes it clear that the writers were envisioning 24 hour days. People don’t usually describe long geological ages as being bracketed by an evening and a morning, for example. Nor is it common to talk about a first day, second day, and so forth when the intention is long periods of time. Every other place where these constructions are used in the Old Testament the intention is a 24 hour day.

    Furthermore, the Day Age theory only gets you around the age of the Earth problem. But the fact is the sequence of events described in the Biblical account is totally contradicted by modern science. For example, according to the Genesis account, vast oceans came before dry land. But every theory of planet formation of which I am aware had dry land coming before oceans. Furthermore, the Genesis account unambiguously states that grasses and fruit-bearing trees were created before animals. In reality, animals predated those sorts of plants by hundreds of millions of years.

    Then there is the business about the Earth being covered by a firmament, by which is meant an actual, physical, dome-like object. That the Earth was convered by such a dome would be a perfectly reasonable assumption for a pre-scientific people, but today we know it is not correct.

    There are other examples of the Bible being unreliable on scientific quesitons. Throughout the Bible the Earth is described as fixed and immovable. Indeed, that was the mainstream view of Christian theologians for centuries. It is not correct. There are likewise numerous verses that imply the Earth is flat. For example, there are frequent descriptions of the Earth as having corners and edges, which makes no sense if you view the Earth as a sphere. Nowadays we might regard a phrase such as “the ends of the Earth” as being a figure of speech, but that is only because we know the Earth is spherical. There is no textual basis for thinking that these verses were intended figuratively at a time when it was perfectly common to think the Earth is flat.

    And, of course, there is the story of Noah. There is simply no way such a large collection of animals could have survived for so long on such a small ark. You can invoke a miracle here if you would like, but that makes a mockery out of the entire story. If really it was God doing the heavy lfiting all along, then why all the rigmarole of having Noah build the ark and gather up the animals?

    Your remark that we can not say the Bible is in error if we can find some reasonable interpretation that harmonizes it with modern science totally misses the point. If there are many reasonable interpreatations of verses that make simple assertions about the nature of the Earth or the order of creation, then we conclude that God’s word is so vague that extra biblical sources of information must be brought to bear before we can properly interpret the text. And if you are going to say that before you can properly interpret the text of the Bible you must first learn quite a bit about modern science, why can’t I say the same thing about the Bible’s moral teachings. Before you can understand the Bible’s instructions for proper living, perhaps you first need to take into consideration the history of human civilization and interpret the Bible from this base of experience.

    For example, I might say that while the Bible superficially appears to condemn homosexual behavior, in light of its increasing acceptance around the world and the changing moral attitudes of modern civilization I must go back and reinterpret those verses. Just as you say you must learn science first and then interpret the Bible, I say that first you must learn history’s lessons about proper conduct before you can interpret the Bible’s teachings.

    Your answer to Rob’s point about the contradictions between Genesis One and Gensis Two is a complete non sequiter. We have the text of the Bible and we can read it for ourselves to determine if there is any contradiction between them. Of what relevance are the opinions of various historical figures in resolving that issue?

    And your argument is ridiculous anyway. You don’t have to assume that the Bible’s writers and editors were idiots who overlooked clear contradictions implied by a plain reading of the text. You only have to believe what Biblical scholarship has been telling us for decades. That the early books of the Bible are not a single author work intended to give a single consistent account of historical events. Instead they represent an edited compilation of various myths and stories that were common among the peoples of the time. It wasn’t that early theologians were unaware of the contradiction, it was that they didn’t care. The idea that every word of the Bible was holy and inerrant came after the work of the original writers and editors.

    The fact is that when confronted with numerous Bible verses that seem to contradict solid findings of modern science we have two options. The first option is to conclude that the Bible contains numerous scientific errors because it was written by a pre-scientific people without the help of divine inspiration. The second option is to laboriously reinterpret the plain meaning of the text simply so you can say the Bible is not in error after all. I don’t understand why you insist on the second option.

  12. #12 Jason Rosenhouse
    July 25, 2006

    Nat-

    I am quite familiar with Ken Miller’s work and, yes, I regard his theological views as logically inconsistent.

  13. #13 David Heddle
    July 25, 2006

    Jason,

    You correctly identify the Noahic flood as the most difficult (but not impossible) passage to reconcile.

    I don’t have a lot of time, but let me address one point before I head home.

    One claim you made is repeated so often by YECs that even non-YECs accept it without question. To wit, that every time yom appears in an ordinal sense it means a 24-hour day. This is simply not true.

    In Hosea, we read:

    Come, let us return to the LORD;
    for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
    he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
    After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:1-2)

    In verse 2, the word yom (day) is used with an ordinal number–the third day. Yet the common interpretation of this passage is both as a Messianic prophesy but also the expectation of a long, indeterminate period of affliction and suffering for Israel. It is never taken to mean that on the third 24 hour period Israel will be lifted up.

    Even if the YECs are correct (which they are not, as I just demonstrated), that all instances of yom with an ordinal number outside of Genesis 1 refer to 24-hour days, it would not prove that the use of yom with ordinal numbers in Genesis 1 must refer to 24-hour days. Perhaps it is just more likely to have occasion to use first day, second day, etc. than first age, second age, leading to the impression that ordinal yom always means a 24-hour day. In other words, the use in Genesis is simply a rarely needed construction rather than a violation of ancient Hebrew grammar. It is just more likely to discuss a sequence of literal days rather than ages–indeed Genesis 1 may be the only place where, even potentially, an ordinal sequence of ages appears–making that interpretation appear as a violation of some non-existent rule. I know of not other place in the Old Testament where one would need to describe an ordinal sequence of ages. And if an ordinal sequence of ages is called for just once, then naturally every other time an ordinal sequence appears it would refer to literal days.

    BTW, I can only comment on your blog using firefox. IE fails everytime.

  14. #14 Dan S.
    July 25, 2006

    David:

    Rather than debating whether the Bible is routinely wrong on scientific questions, perhaps it would make more sense (well, as much as anything) to look for places that seem to involve scientific knowledge above and beyond what was known during the time. In fact, as you basically point out, there are very relatively few potential scientific claims that couldn’t at least possibly be interpreted as literary language, etc. – which in itself could be seen as suggestive.

    “. That our universe was not steady-state is one–perhaps the only unambiguous one–and the bible won that debate. ”

    Besides Joe’s excellent point – that the Bible has to share this distinction with hundreds of other creation myths, from countless belief systems- and the fact that it happens to present the right choice out of basically two, this is a questionable claim at best. Genesis seems to talk about the creation of the solar system, mostly; well, of the earth and the sun and the moon – and the stars, which could be taken to represent the entire rest of the universe. But this is presented in a way
    – ” two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: [and the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth . . .” –
    that’s basically the kind of generic naive understanding of “lights we can see in the sky” one finds many places prior to the development of fairly sophisticated astronomical observations and tools. There seems to be no glimpse, no impression of a unbelievably vast and ancient universe, no hint of other worlds than these, not even in a way we might only recognize once we had gathered that knowledge ourselves.

    Instead, we have the earth and ?sky and seas – created, along with plants, before the sun and stars.

    “. There is ample chance for the bible to make a demonstrably false statement in the Genesis account that could not be “rescued” by the day-age view–for example it could get the order of the fossil record wrong, claiming that mammals preceded sea life. (Go on–challenge me regarding trees).”

    Well, the order of the earth being created before all stars is rather questionable, as well as the creation of winged fowl and whales prior to land-living creatures (all refs here to the KJV, if it matters in this case). And if you insist – ok, I challenge you regarding trees. Can you explain the creation of all plants before sea creatures and birds? I’m guessing this explanation will hinge on the existence of photosynthetic organisms prior to the evolution of fish . . . .

  15. #15 Tiax
    July 26, 2006

    The way I see it, if someone claims to interpret the bible metaphorically outside of the obvious parables (and Ruse seems to be saying that anything can be taken metaphorically if he needs it to), then that person isn’t really a believer in the bible. They believe in science, and they believe that the bible must be right, but only because they believe that the bible must say what science says.

    Basically, if you’re willing to let any source other than the bible settle confusion about the contents of the bible, then you’ve decided that the other source is more reliably true. Why not just cut out the middle man, then?

  16. #16 Tiax
    July 26, 2006

    “There is ample chance for the bible to make a demonstrably false statement in the Genesis account that could not be “rescued” by the day-age view–for example it could get the order of the fossil record wrong, claiming that mammals preceded sea life. (Go on–challenge me regarding trees). But it doesn’t.”

    Alright, I won’t do trees. So, the order as I read it here is:

    Pre-Day 1:
    Darkness

    Day 1:
    Lightness, Day, Night

    Day 2:
    Firmament

    Day 3:
    Dry land
    Grass, herbs, trees

    Day 4:
    Stars, Sun, Moon

    Day 5:
    Critters, birds

    Day 6:
    Beasts
    Man

    So, is anything out of order here? Everything in day 4 looks pretty troubling to me. I mean, I suppose you could play the miracle card on the days and nights thing, but plants before the sun? Heck, the -earth- before the sun? Or even the stars? Let’s be up-front about this, if someone tells me that plants came before the sun, they are wrong, and further, there is no valid metaphoric purpose in suggesting that the plants came before the sun. If I re-order the days as 1, 4, 2, 3, 5, 6 – that story looks a lot more like real history.

  17. #17 Robert O'Brien
    July 26, 2006

    What is your explanation as to why the Jews never corrected such an obvious blunder? Were they just too dumb to see that the first two chapters of their holy book were conflicting? Here I am assuming that you, like everyone else who makes this claim, thinks that the contradiction is obvious, rather than subtle. They have had roughly three millennia to see the problem. Why do you suppose they missed it?

    And all the learned theologians down through the ages–why did they ignore it? While you might comfort yourself that in the modern scientific age all theologians are bumpkins, surely you agree that in pre-modern times they were the west’s great intellectuals–Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc–and while they discussed many interpretative difficulties with certain scriptures, they never fretted over Genesis 1 vs. Genesis 2 being a conundrum. Why do you think that is so?

    Dr. Heddle:

    I suspect they read one account in such a way as to make it appear to conform to the other. As for why two different accounts would wind up in the same book, perhaps it had to do with a reluctance to discard sacred tradition/text.

    As for Jason’s comment concerning science and the Bible, I agree with him that parts of the Bible are ostensibly incongruous with modern science, but, even so, I think you are sensible. :-)

  18. #18 David Heddle
    July 26, 2006

    Some good questions here, and I’ll answer them in some abbreviated form today. Here is a preemptive strike: much of the response is based on possible (scholarly supportable) alternate interpretations of the Hebrew.

    Ancient Hebrew had significantly less than 1/10th the vocabulary of English. Hence there is always a 1 to N mapping when translating. Even though yom meant either day or age (actually, even “day” in English can mean an era) how would the pre-scientific KJ translators interpret it? With no reason to believe the earth is old, they rather naturally interpreted it as “day.”

    Think about that for a moment–if it were only now that Genesis was being translated from the ancient Hebrew to modern languages, by a team of serious, knowledgeable, well-intentioned scholars, there is a unknowable but I suggest fair chance that in light of science they would interpret yom as age without feeling they had done violence to the text.

    So if you will cry “foul” here, then don’t bother. Your argument, in that case, is essentially: “Anyone who believes the bible is inerrant is a jackass–but anyone who wants to defend biblical inerrancy must use ‘inerrant’ English translations–offering alternate interpretations of the Hebrew is a cop-out.”

  19. #19 John Pieret
    July 26, 2006

    The fact is that when confronted with numerous Bible verses that seem to contradict solid findings of modern science we have two options. The first option is to conclude that the Bible contains numerous scientific errors because it was written by a pre-scientific people without the help of divine inspiration. The second option is to laboriously reinterpret the plain meaning of the text simply so you can say the Bible is not in error after all.

    Come on, Jason. Even a non-believer like me can think of more options. For example, the Bible could have been divinely inspired for a pre-scientific people who could have only understood the message within their undertanding of the world around them and with the certainty that, in a more knowledgeable age, where thinking would be more flexible, the message could still be understood despite the trappings of bronze age cosmology.

    The problem with fundamentalists is not their specific beliefs but the inflexibility of their thought processes. Frankly, I am always amazed when people who would normally be embarrassed to display such thinking adopt it to make poor arguments against the very thing they usually oppose.

  20. #20 Jay
    July 26, 2006

    Here’s a manual trackback on this article, since real trackbacks have never worked for me…

    Rosenhouse on Religion

    (Speaking of which — hey SEED, what’s up with trackbacks?)

  21. #21 Jason Rosenhouse
    July 26, 2006

    John Pieret-

    I’m afraid your third explanation does not hold water. Prescientific does not mean stupid. The various ancient ideas about the universe that we today regard as naive (say that the Earth is the center of the universe, or that the stars were lights hanging suspended from a firmament) were not unreasonable given what was known at the time. The problem wasn’t that the ancients were incapable of understanding the truth, it was that they didn’t have the proper tools for investigating the universe.

    And the Genesis account still doesn’t make sense even if we interpret it as God’s way of talking to a prescientific people. God could simply have provided a statement that he created the world and everything in it and he holds dominion over everything. Everyone at the time would have udnerstood such a statement. Instead God apparently outlined a specific sequence of events, a sequence that is utterly irreconcilable with modern science. You can’t explain that away by saying that God was talking to a prescientific people.

  22. #22 David Heddle
    July 26, 2006

    I have decided to respond first to the worn-out canard that Genesis 1 and 2 are in conflict. I also decided it was worth a post, so if interested you can read it here.

    If the link doesn’t work, here is that same address:

    http://helives.blogspot.com/2006/07/oy-vay-genesis-one-and-two-disagree.html

  23. #23 Jason Rosenhouse
    July 26, 2006

    David-

    I’m familiar with the verse in Hosea, but I’m not sure why you think it helps your case. Personally I find Hosea rather difficult to understand. The young-Earthers, however, do not agree with your interpretation of the verse. For example: Go here, footnote nine.

    Concerning your claims about the difficulties of Hebrew translation, all I can say is that your arguments strike me as rather desperate. You seem to have abandoned the idea of determining the most likely intention of the people who wrote the text. Instead you’re flailing around for any interpretation that will allow you to reconcile the Biblical account with an ancient Earth.

    The fact is that Hebrew has constructions for expressing arbitrary lengths of time, but the writers did not use them. Instead they used constructions that in every other context plainly refer to 24 hour days. One ambiguous verse in Hosea is not going to change that fact. We are talking about periods of time defined by the passage of an evening and a morning, after all.

    I think the YEC’s are wrong on just about everything in life, but on this subject they make better arguments than their critics.

  24. #24 David Heddle
    July 26, 2006

    Jason,

    I posted previously regarding Gen. 1 vs. Gen 2–But I got a message to the effect that the comment awaited your approval–perhaps because it contained a link?

    Speaking of links, you “Go here, footnote nine” link doesn’t seem to work. Strangely it is blue like all good links, but it is not underlined, and I cannot click on it.

    You wrote:
    think the YEC’s are wrong on just about everything in life, but on this subject they make better arguments than their critics.

    I would add that in this case it is not a coincidence that it is convenient for you to side with the YECs, since it is a simple way to bolster the claim that the bible and science are incompatible.

  25. #25 386sx
    July 26, 2006

    I would add that in this case it is not a coincidence that it is convenient for you to side with the YECs, since it is a simple way to bolster the claim that the bible and science are incompatible.

    Nothing coincidental about faith in the Bible though. It’s all a very fortunate circumstance.

  26. #26 Jason Rosenhouse
    July 26, 2006

    David-

    The commenting feature here is a bit tempermental. For some reason certain comments get placed in a queue waiting for my approval, when really that’s not supposed to happen. Links are fine though. I left out a quotation mark in my previous comment, which is why the link didn’t work. The problem has been fixed.

    As for what it’s convenient for me to believe, I can only say that my rejection of the Bible came after I read it, came to my own conclusion about what it was saying, and considered various commentaries on it written from differing viewpoints. In other words, first I decided that the young-Earthers had the right intepretation (on the narrow point of what the days in Genesis refer to) then I decided that the Bible is incompatible with science. Unlike yourself, I believe the Bible speaks for itself and means what it says. I don’t view it as a puzzle in devising creative interpretations of blunt statements for the purpose of reconciling its contents with modern science.

    I could as easily point out that your willingness to accept something as absurd as the Day Age interpretation is just a convenient way to avoid abandoning your forlorn quest to deny the obvious: That the Bible, in its most natural interpretation, is plainly inconsistent with modern science.

  27. #27 David Heddle
    July 26, 2006

    Concerning the conflict between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2

    In the Genesis One account, and in the fossil record with which that account is consistent, animals are created before man. However, moving on to the next chapter, in Genesis 2:19 we read:

    So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (Gen. 2:19, ESV)

    Unsophisticated biblical critics label this an obvious error.

    Now there are a fair number of difficult questions regarding scripture, but this isn’t one of them. Talented bible critics never bring up Genesis One v. Genesis Two as a problem, since they recognize that, in fact, it isn’t.

    The irreconcilable discrepancy, as it were, is clear. In the English, Gen. 2:19 reverses the order of creation given in Genesis One. In Genesis Two, it appears that man was created before the animals.

    Like, oh my gosh! That’s embarrassing. How could we not have noticed?

    We first note, not as an explanation but just as a datum, that Genesis One is a chronological creation account, while Genesis Two is not. Genesis Two zooms-in on the creation of man, elaborating on his duties and responsibilities.

    We also suggest that this verse presents something of a problem for young earth creationists, because Adam’s naming of the animals would have to have been completed in a matter of hours (or minutes), since other things also happened on day six. Adam’s ability to name (thoughtfully, it would appear) all the animals has been explained in a number of problematic (meaning without biblical support) ways, such as pre-fall supernatural speed, or and/or a pre-fall super-intellect. Of course, for old earth creationists this is not an issue.

    Back to the point at hand, where we will find that there is a simple explanation.

    And we expect a simple explanation, because the ancient Hebrews were not idiots. Hebrew scholars, along with Christian theologians, would surely have noticed the “obvious, slam-dunk” refutation of biblical inerrancy that every two-bit bible critic seems to imagine he discovered on his own. Over thousands of years, you’d have to expect that the Jews would have corrected such a blatant inconsistency.

    The crux of the correct explanation is that the form of past tense for a verb used in ancient Hebrew was based on context. (In other words, the varieties of distinctive tenses we use in English, which are independent of context, were not used.)

    Hebrew scholar Victor Hamilton writes

    it is possible to translate formed as ‘had formed.’ (Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, p. 176, 1990).

    Indeed, some scholarly English translations do render using the pluperfect tense. While the plain past tense is used in the KJV and in the ESV that I quoted above, the NIV reads:

    Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Gen. 2:19, NIV)

    Clearly this translation implies no temporal ordering.

    In their encyclopedic commentary on the Old Testament, scholars Keil and Delitzsch write:

    our modern style for expressing the same thought would be simply this: �God brought to Adam the beasts which He had formed (C. F. Keil, and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 1996).

    H. C. Leupold, another Hebrew scholar, wrote regarding Gen. 2:19

    Without any emphasis on the sequence of acts the account here records the making of the various creatures and the bringing of them to man. That in reality they had been made prior to the creation of man is so entirely apparent from chapter one as not to require explanation. But the reminder that God had “molded” them makes obvious His power to bring them to man and so is quite appropriately mentioned here. It would not, in our estimation, be wrong to translate yatsar as a pluperfect in this instance: “He had molded.” The insistence of the critics upon a plain past [tense] is partly the result of the attempt to make chapters one and two clash at as many points as possible. (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, 1942).

    In summary, scholars over the last few millennia didn’t “miss” the problem. They simply recognized that the defensible option of choosing the pluperfect tense rendered any such discussion moot.

    Of course, you don’t have to use the pluperfect. You could choose the vanilla past tense, in which case the problem reappears. But biblical defense does not demand that the only possible interpretation supports the desired result�it demands only that some reasonable and defensible interpretation does so. In this case, the requirement is met easily.

  28. #28 David Heddle
    July 26, 2006

    I tried again, and again it set aside my post on Genesis 1 v. Genesis 2, queuing it for approval. Does scienceblogs.com using some discarded East German perl scripts?

    I’ll give up and just state that it is the only Wednesday, July 26, 2006 post on my blog. For those interested.

  29. #29 John Pieret
    July 26, 2006

    Prescientific does not mean stupid. The various ancient ideas about the universe that we today regard as naive (say that the Earth is the center of the universe, or that the stars were lights hanging suspended from a firmament) were not unreasonable given what was known at the time. The problem wasn’t that the ancients were incapable of understanding the truth, it was that they didn’t have the proper tools for investigating the universe.

    Who said they were stupid? I said the same thing you did, that they lacked the tools to understand the universe.

    More importantly, who said you have some insight into a god’s purposes? By your very premise that Genesis’ scientific errors were the result of lack of knowledge of the day, you are admitting that those ideas fit comfortably within bronze age sensibilities . . . or why else would they come up with them?

    Why couldn’t that have been this god’s intent — to give them a comforting cosmology? Why would a god intent on spreading belief in himself and his morality be interested in holding science classes for ephemeral creature that will, by his lights, learn all that all too soon?

    And by what standard are you determining that any action of god(s) don’t hold water and why do you get to choose?

    Have you ever heard of hubris?

  30. #30 386sx
    July 26, 2006

    Why couldn’t that have been this god’s intent — to give them a comforting cosmology? Why would a god intent on spreading belief in himself and his morality be interested in holding science classes for ephemeral creature that will, by his lights, learn all that all too soon?

    If he wasn’t interested in holding science classes then what’s he doing giving them a comforting cosmology. I guess it’s only called a science class when it’s a real cosmology rather than a fake cosmology. :-)

  31. #31 John Pieret
    July 27, 2006

    If he wasn’t interested in holding science classes then what’s he doing giving them a comforting cosmology. I guess it’s only called a science class when it’s a real cosmology rather than a fake cosmology. :-)

    Why do we tell children fairy tales, write literature and paint pictures? Metaphor and allegory are ways of understanding the world and our place in it. It has been said that Genesis is a story about who created the universe and why, not about when and how.

    It’s called a science class when you think the mundane details are more important than the larger truths that people hanker after.

  32. #32 Larry Fafarman
    July 27, 2006

    Michael Ruse’s Tallahassee Democrat op-ed piece said —

    This has been a good year for evolutionists. First, at the end of 2005, a judge in Pennsylvania – a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush – decreed that so-called Intelligent Design Theory is not genuine science and hence cannot be taught in publicly funded science classrooms.

    I think Ruse is grossly overoptimistic about where Darwinists stand today in their efforts to censor criticism of Darwinism in the public schools. Consider, for example, the last three major pro-Darwinist court decisions concerning the teaching or mention of criticisms of Darwinism in public-school science classes. The Kitzmiller v. Dover decision cited by Ruse never got past the district court level and is one of the most controversial court decisions in American history. An appeals court appeared to be leaning towards reversing the Selman v. Cobb County textbook-sticker case decision and ended up remanding the case to the district court because of missing evidence. The Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish(2000) evolution-disclaimer case came within one vote of being granted an en banc (full court) appeals court rehearing and within one vote of being granted certiorari by the US Supreme Court — see im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/05/close-votes-in-freiler-case-show.html

    Also, several state governments have passed or proposed laws and regulations in favor of teaching criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools: Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, South Carolina, Utah, and possibly others. Furthermore, opinion polls show that a majority of the public is in favor of teaching criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools.

    The conclusion section of the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion says, “Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.”

    The last statement, that evolution “in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator,” is just a statement of personal philosophical opinion, not a statement of law or science. What Judge Jones did not recognize is that a literal interpretation of the bible is actually an essential part of some people’s religions. As attorney Edward Sisson pointed out, the issue of favored political “insiders” and disfavored political “outsiders” is an important part of the judicial “endorsement test” and the evolutionists are the favored insiders where only evolution is actually being taught — the evolution-disclaimer statements could be considered to be mere sops given to the disfavored outsiders. The Supreme Court said in Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 673 (1984):

    “It has never been thought either possible or desirable to enforce a regime of total separation . . . .” Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 760 (1973). Nor does the Constitution require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any. Anything less would require the “callous indifference” we have said was never intended by the Establishment Clause. Indeed, we have observed, such hostility would bring us into “war with our national tradition as embodied in the First Amendment’s guaranty of the free exercise of religion.” (some citations omitted) See caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=465&page=668

    Furthermore, the following statements of Judge Jones in a commencement speech showed great hostility towards organized religion:

    The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state. See im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/07/judge-jones-wrong-about-founding.html>

    According to his above statements, Jones does not consider Christianity, for example, to be a “true religion.”

    Jason Rosenhouse said ( July 26, 2006 04:24 PM ) —

    The commenting feature here is a bit tempermental. For some reason certain comments get placed in a queue waiting for my approval, when really that’s not supposed to happen. Links are fine though. I left out a quotation mark in my previous comment, which is why the link didn’t work. The problem has been fixed.

    Jason,

    I question your statement, “Links are fine though.” It is possible that as the blogger here, your comments are not subject to being delayed for comment moderation. I have found that having more than one URL link causes my comment to be delayed for moderation (on Panda’s Thumb, the maximum number of links is four). A large number of links is supposed to be a sign of spam, though I have no idea why. To avoid problems, I disable the automatic linking feature by removing the http:// prefixes from the links — as a result the readers cannot click on the links but have to copy and paste them.

  33. #33 DarwinCatholic
    July 27, 2006

    I think John Pieret’s point deserves rather more respect than it is being given. There is, it seems, a tendency for man to make God in his own image — and in accordance with that tendency a great many people of empirical backgrounds can’t seem to imagine how in the world a deity could have seen fit to reveal anything other than (or contradictory to) a textbook discource on the physical world. I’m sure I’m not the most deeply read person on the subject, but from what I have read, it seems that this approach became very common in the ‘scientific age’ (say, since 1600 or so) but was almost unheard of before. Origen and Augustine are just a few of the ancient authors who seemed to have no difficulty believing that the Bible was not meant to deal with scientific issues, and I’m not sure why one would assume that the Jewish scholars of their time, or some centuries before, would necessarily have differed on this.

    The thing to keep in mind about Genesis, I think, is that certain parts of it (the story of Noah especially) are clearly versions of myths that were common in Mesopotamia at the time. That can be taken to mean that all of them stem from some common historical truth, or it can be taken to mean that Genesis (in parts) represents a ‘baptised’ version of myths common among the various Semitic peoples of the 3rd millenia BC.

    The thing that distinguishes the Biblical versions of the myths (say if you read the story of Noah versus the version in Gilgamesh) is the monotheism and moralism which are essential to the Biblical versions, and wholly lacking in the pagan versions. Given that these are the features that distinguish this version of the stories from others, it could well be that those are the main points.

  34. #34 GH
    July 27, 2006

    tendency for man to make God in his own image — and in accordance with that tendency a great many people of empirical backgrounds can’t seem to imagine how in the world a deity could have seen fit to reveal anything other than (or contradictory to) a textbook discource on the physical world.

    This is self defeating. If you can’t prove it empirically exactly what are doing using to show how God really is. In fact you are more likely to make God in your own image minus it.

    The thing that distinguishes the Biblical versions of the myths (say if you read the story of Noah versus the version in Gilgamesh) is the monotheism and moralism which are essential to the Biblical versions, and wholly lacking in the pagan versions.

    This is so freaking ignorant as to be called stupid. Many, many pagan stories have a moral to them. Many of these stories are considered the origin for more than a few Christian stories. Why do people have to be intellectually dishonest to maintain a previously held belief?

  35. #35 DarwinCatholic
    July 27, 2006

    This is self defeating. If you can’t prove it empirically exactly what are doing using to show how God really is. In fact you are more likely to make God in your own image minus it.

    I’m not sure I quite get your point… It may be that a holy book which successfully made empirically provable but as yet unknown scientific assertions would seem like a good idea from our modern point of view, as a way of proving that it was a legit holy book. But regardless of whether that’s how we would have done it, that doesn’t seem to be either how the Bible presents itself or how the ancients regarded it. No where does one read, “And you shall know that all this is true because it makes provable scientific assertions.”

    This is so freaking ignorant as to be called stupid. Many, many pagan stories have a moral to them. Many of these stories are considered the origin for more than a few Christian stories.

    I didn’t say that no pagan stories have morals, or that few pagan stories have morals. I said that the version of the Noah story in Gilgamesh is without a moral context — if you read some of the scholarship on it (and read the story — it’s easily found online or in a library) you’ll find this to be the case. In the Biblical Noah story the flood is sent because God wishes to wipe out sinners. In the Gilgamesh version, no particular reason is given. (Though one version says that the gods are annoyed that humans are always making noise — thus making it hard for the gods to sleep.) The escape of Utnapishtim (the version of Noah in Gilgamesh) is the result of dissention among the gods and favoratism, not any particular moral standing on Utnapishtim’s part.

    While many pagan myths do present morals as in “lessons” the idea of moral law stemming from the gods was a comparatively late development. Hessiod brings this view to Greek mythology around 800BC, while Homeric myths (which are rather older in origin) do not present a ‘law giver’ aspect of the gods. Older pagan mythology such as Gilgamesh and Homer tends to emphasize the capriciousness of the gods and man’s attempt to strive against the gods.

  36. #36 GH
    July 27, 2006

    I’m not sure I quite get your point… It may be that a holy book which successfully made empirically provable but as yet unknown scientific assertions would seem like a good idea from our modern point of view, as a way of proving that it was a legit holy book. But regardless of whether that’s how we would have done it, that doesn’t seem to be either how the Bible presents itself or how the ancients regarded it

    I would argue the bible doesn’t present itself anyway. It is a widely varying collection of books written at widely different times, voted on and stuck together while the pieces that disagreed where no voted in. The bible in places definetly makes empirical claims and at others uses metaphors. The ancients regarded it as, well, not much seeing how the majority couldn’t read. Those that could stuck there thoughts into religion.

    You said in a previous comment:

    There is, it seems, a tendency for man to make God in his own image — and in accordance with that tendency a great many people of empirical backgrounds can’t seem to imagine how in the world a deity could have seen fit to reveal anything other than (or contradictory to) a textbook discource on the physical world.

    There is no other way for man to make God. Since there is no evidence for a God or Gods we have no choice but to do this. To say people with empirical backgrounds are the ones with the imagination problem misses the point. In fact they are the ones who are thinking correctly. Everyone else is still making God as they see it or where told to see it but pretend otherwise.

    And for the record I do think YEC make better arguments in regard to the day/age theory of Genesis. In fact it seems to not even be doubtful.

    While you might comfort yourself that in the modern scientific age all theologians are bumpkins, surely you agree that in pre-modern times they were the west’s great intellectuals–Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc–and while they discussed many interpretative difficulties with certain scriptures, they never fretted over Genesis 1 vs. Genesis 2 being a conundrum. Why do you think that is so?

    Faith in something has destroyed many a great mind. Seeing how each and every one of the people you listed would disagree on many things regarding religion it seems best to place their views alongside everyone else. There views on scripture carry no more weight than any other. They are just men. In this case I think they likely would seek to justify the contradiction by whatever means worked for them. As has been shown in psychological studies, smart people are just better at defending bad ideas they arrived at for non-smart reasons. I’m sure it has always been so.

    And who cares anyway, given the order of events it is even less likely.

  37. #37 386sx
    July 27, 2006

    Why do we tell children fairy tales, write literature and paint pictures?

    I dunno. But whatever the reason is, it’s something that people do. People do stuff that way. Science is something that people do too. For whatever reason, they do stuff that way too. But when you say that God does the “fairy tales” thing just like people do, for some reason or other DarwinCatholic doesn’t accuse you of making God in man’s image. Go figure.

    Anyway, far be it from me to offend their delicate bronze age sensibilities.

  38. #38 386sx
    July 28, 2006

    By the way, I think that one particular myth that God made up about sending himself down to Earth and doing all kinds of magic healings and parables and beatitudes and then flying back up to heaven etc. was very clever. A lot of folks seem to be buying it without having their sensibilities upset too much.

  39. #39 Fred
    July 28, 2006

    If the Bible is correctly read as saying that the “days” of Genesis were actually “eras,” and that a correct interpretation of the Bible supports all current science, then why didn’t any of the Bible’s followers PREDICT any of it? For example, when science said “the earth is old,” why didn’t the Church say, “duh, you just figured that out NOW???” or better yet, why didn’t they tell scientists that they’d soon discover that the earth is old?

    It strikes me as being just like belivers in the prophecies of Nostradamus: they never tell you anything in advance, they just look back at things and say “see, this prophecy came true.” And given (by themselves) free reign to interpret everything however they want it, they are never wrong.

    On a different note, as someone else here has already pointed out, Heddle and others like him fully believe in science, and adjust their readings of the Bible to match what we know is scientifically true. But why limit that to things like the age of the earth? Why not also say that evolution happened and that the Bible can be interpreted to fully support evolution? And, as the other guy said, if you’re frantically trying to make the Bible fit science, why bother with the Bible at all? Do you believe that the moral teachings of the Bible would be negated if it got the science wrong?

  40. #40 David Heddle
    July 28, 2006

    Fred,

    Actually we did tell you something in advance: our universe had a beginning. The Genesis account was never adapted to fit the steady state models when they were all the rage in the early 20th century. Score: Bible 1, Einstein 0.

    As for predicting an old earth, the ambiguity of the Hebrew word yom is the culprit. As even Jason would have to admit, it was the only word in ancient Hebrew for day and/or age.

    So as long as there was no reason to think the earth was old, there was no reason not to interpret yom as day–at least not a compelling reason, and a pre-scientific people would no doubt be inclined to do so. This is why the (demonstrably false) claim that early church universally interpreted days as 24-hour period is irrelevant–even if they did it would be understandable in light of a lack of scientific evidence of an old earth. Once an old earth was demonstrated, there is no reason not to interpret yom as age. If the Genesis account was explicit in declaring 24 hour days, there would no wiggle room whatsoever, and the bible would be demonstrated as false. At that point, nothing it stated could be trusted.

    Personally, I don’t think the bible is incompatible with evolution as a secondary cause (theistic evolution). I think the bible gives even less details that are applicable to evolution than it does to cosmology. The only point that is beyond questioning for theists is that God was always in control, and his sovereign plan could not be thwarted by an unforeseen random mutation. Theistic evolution may be indistinguishable experimentally from non-theistic evolution–although unlike its secular cousin it wouldn’t rule out a discontinuity resulting from a supernatural intervention. Scientists inclined toward theistic evolution would “do” evolution just the same as their atheistic colleagues.

  41. #41 Uber
    July 29, 2006

    Honestly David your apologetics is getting old. It is filled with so many flaws and obvious errors whereevr you spew it that I don’t know how an intelligent fellow like yourself can’t see it.

    Actually we did tell you something in advance: our universe had a beginning. The Genesis account was never adapted to fit the steady state models when they were all the rage in the early 20th century. Score: Bible 1, Einstein 0.

    Whats this ‘we’? You didn’t tell anyone anything.is so ridiculous on it’s face. He asks for a prediction and you offer up talking snakes and an origin story that even if taken as eras is radically different than what actually occurred. Then claim a point based on what amounts to a pyschic saying a child is lost in the woods. many origin stories posit an origin, so what?

    As for predicting an old earth, the ambiguity of the Hebrew word yom is the culprit. As even Jason would have to admit, it was the only word in ancient Hebrew for day and/or age.

    I used to be an day/age guy, but ultimately it doesn’t work. It is quite clear the writers intent was not to convey eras but simple days. Eras in the context make no sense. Likewise eras in the order given make less sense.

    If the Genesis account was explicit in declaring 24 hour days, there would no wiggle room whatsoever, and the bible would be demonstrated as false. At that point, nothing it stated could be trusted.

    No it wouldn’t. One could simply say God did it and be done with it. We have all kinds of evidence for all kinds of things that contradict the bible worse than this. No global flood, the obvious fable at the tower of bable, people rising and flying around. All of these things contradict reality. The day/age thing is minor.

    Personally, I don’t think the bible is incompatible with evolution as a secondary cause (theistic evolution). I think the bible gives even less details that are applicable to evolution than it does to cosmology.

    Haha, it doesn’t give either except to those woo-woos who see this type of thing in whatever book they choose to see as holy. So you think evolution is compatible with the bible, interesting. So seeing that evolution is a continuum and we are certainly not the end wonder what Gods real plan is?

    The only point that is beyond questioning for theists is that God was always in control, and his sovereign plan could not be thwarted by an unforeseen random mutation. Theistic evolution may be indistinguishable experimentally from non-theistic evolution–although unlike its secular cousin it wouldn’t rule out a discontinuity resulting from a supernatural intervention.

    Thats almost the best argument against theistic evolution I’ve ever read. It trivializes it to a point of meaninglessness. He needed 4.6 billion years eliminating 98% of the species that ever lived to get to a species that recently evolved from apes and still carries the inate primate behaviours?

    So how was the first human different from say their parents? Evolution is a continuum we are different by degree.

  42. #42 Robert O'Brien
    July 30, 2006

    Anyway, far be it from me to offend their delicate bronze age sensibilities.

    Whose “bronze age” sensibilities? You can’t be referring to Christians (or Jews), since even the Pentateuch is an Iron Age document. BTW, since you seem to have your head buried in the sand, could you search for buried texts while you are down there?

  43. #43 JimC
    July 30, 2006

    Of my Gosh, the real Robert O’Brien. I had thought for awhile he was just a figment used to describe a goofy person prone to saying stupid things who even had an award named fo him over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. But now I find out he’s real and still doing it.

    Incredible.

  44. #44 386sx
    July 30, 2006

    Whose “bronze age” sensibilities? You can’t be referring to Christians (or Jews), since even the Pentateuch is an Iron Age document.

    Who said anything about a document? Ha! I got you there.

    BTW, since you seem to have your head buried in the sand, could you search for buried texts while you are down there?

    That isn’t very nice so if you have anything further to say, I shall not be replying.

  45. #45 Robert O'Brien
    July 30, 2006

    Of my Gosh, the real Robert O’Brien. I had thought for awhile he was just a figment used to describe a goofy person prone to saying stupid things who even had an award named fo him over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. But now I find out he’s real and still doing it.

    Incredible.

    It comes as no surprise that you are one of Ed’s hangers-on; your vapidity marks you as such.

  46. #46 JimC
    July 30, 2006

    You mean an occasional reader of that blog? So in your world that makes one a hanger-on?

    If only we all could soar to your levels of knowledge and discourse.

    But cheer up your semi-famous. :-)

  47. #47 Kevin from NYC
    August 11, 2006

    “For example, the Bible could have been divinely inspired ”

    or it could have been written by camels….or it could have fallen out of the sky in single pages….thereby proving it is really a science textbook!

    wow La La Larry and David Heydiddle-diddle on the same thread. Now we need Carol to show up….

    Let’s revew…we have a bunch of texts that some goat-herders wrote down to start their own myth of how great they were and how the ONE TRUE GOD loves them and only them. And still today some of us are trying to use it to beat the crap out of our neighbors because they don’t look/sound/smell like we do….

    oh oh I know! Let’s start reviewing the sacred text of the Mormons! that should provide some additional amusment.

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