Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Early Christians and Jews accepted that the firmament of Genesis was solid

Nothing demonstrates the fact that Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology and not modern science more effectively than its declaration that the firmament was solid, separating waters above from waters below. It is this one fact more than anything else that destroys both literal and strong concordist readings of the Genesis 1 that seek to read it as a scientifically accurate account of origins. It also shows that contemporary special creationists - both YEC and OEC - not only fail to interpret Genesis 1 properly on this point but are also ignorant of how early Christian and Jewish expositors interpreted Genesis 1. On this point we find that many accepted the solidity of the firmament.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Alan Lightman reviews Amir Aczel's "Why Science Does Not Disprove God"

Mathematician and historian of science Amir Aczel's latest book "Why Science Does Not Disprove God" which on the title alone is clearly an attack on New Atheism is reviewed by physicist and writer Alan Lightman in the Washington Post. Although Lightman is a non-theist, his review is fairly even-handed, criticising Aczel for lapsing into the 'God of the Gaps' defence:
Yet Aczel has a sly mission of his own. Invoking various physical phenomena that do not (yet) have convincing scientific explanations, he sets out not only to debunk the arguments of the New Atheists but also to gently suggest that the findings of science actually point to the existence of God.
I am not aware of any finding of science that categorically points to the existence of the God of the Bible, and if Aczel is using current difficulties in science as the means by which he can point to God, then he is merely setting up any creator God for future unemployment when those gaps close. 

Lightman's comments on fine tuning though are fascinating in that he declares both positions are ultimately based on faith:
So, the question is: Why? Why do these parameters lie in the narrow range that allows life? There are three possibilities: First, there might be some as-yet-unknown physics that requires these parameters to be what they are. But this explanation is highly questionable — why should the laws of physics care about the emergence of life? Second possibility: God created the universe, God wanted life (for whatever reasons), so God designed the universe so that it would allow life. Third possibility, and the one favored by many physicists today: Our universe is one of zillions of different universes with a huge range of parameters, including many different values for the strength of the nuclear force and the density of dark energy. 
Some universes have stars and planets, some do not. Some harbor life, some do not. In this scenario, our universe is simply an accident. If our particular universe did not have the right parameters to allow the emergence of life, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it. In a similar way, Earth happens to be at the right distance from the sun to have liquid water, a nice oxygen atmosphere and so on. We can ask why our planet has all these lovely properties, amenable to life. And the explanation is that there is nothing special or designed about Earth. Other planets exist. But if we lived on Mercury, where the temperature is 800 degrees, or on Neptune, where it is 328 degrees below zero, we could not exist. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that we cannot prove the existence of these other universes. We must accept their existence as a matter of faith. 
And here we come to the fascinating irony of the fine-tuning problem. Both the theological explanation and the scientific explanation require faith. To be sure, there are huge differences between science and religion. Religion knows about the transcendent experience. Science knows about the structure of DNA and the orbits of planets. Religion gathers its knowledge largely by personal testament. Science gathers its knowledge by repeated experiments and mathematical calculations, and has been enormously successful in explaining much of the physical universe. But, in the manner I have described, faith enters into both enterprises.
In whom do you place your faith? An eternally existence multiverse, or an eternally existence creator?

Full review is here.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Neville Clark's attack on evolution - 5

Clark continues by revisiting the tragic Ralph Lovelock affair, which saw an English Christadelphian disfellowshipped two years after delivering a series of Bible classes in which he explored how to reconcile Genesis with the evidence for human prehistory, which even in the middle of the 20th century was already compelling. Clark’s mistake is not in his recounting of the basic facts, but failing to heed the advice of the arranging brothers of bro Lovelock’s ecclesia and the then editor of The Christadelphian to acknowledge the fact that human life predated Adam, and rationally examine this  point. Clark’s approach is merely to ignore the problem and demonise those who concede there is a problem with the fundamentalist reading of the creation narratives.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Neville Clark's attack on evolution - 4

Neville Clark attempts to rebut the paleontological data confirming the reality of anatomically human life predating Adam either by claiming that radiometric dating is unreliable, or that the fossils are indeed old but either predate Adam or are not human but monkeys. 

His dismissal of the reliability of radiometric dating betrays inexpert knowledge of the subject as he asserts that the formation of fossils in 'catastrophic' conditions where conditions are not 'constant' undermines the reliability of the method. Fossils are not dated directly. Instead, strata above and below the fossil are dated. Decay rates are constant under extremes of pressure, temperature, and electromagnetic fields, while modern dating methods can tell us when rocks have been disturbed, making Clark's objection immaterial.

The poorly informed nature of his argument is further apparent when he states that the fossils of anatomically modern humans may not be humans, but 'monkey[s] of some kind'. That he would seriously argue trained competent palaeoanthropologists would mistake the skull of a human for a monkey not only is deeply patronising, but suggests his comprehension of the topic is limited.

His concession that the fossils may predate Adam also contradicts his earlier statement that "God created everything all at once in the first six days of creation. And that's all that happened." Either everything was created at once in six days, or they were not.  Internal inconsistencies in his arguments alone are highly damaging to his credibility.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Neville Clark's attack on evolution - 3

Part three of this critical examination of Neville Clark’s attack on evolutionary creationism concentrates on his misrepresentation of what evolutionary creationists believe, as well as his lack of familiarity in the fields of geology, palaeontology and evolutionary biology. With respect to why an increasing number of Christadelphians reject literalism, Clark asserts:
“Now why would somebody want to do that? Why would…want you try and even think that? I mean, you’re either an evolutionist or you’re not. Well the answer is because they look at the geological column which is…the description evolutionists have of…life and the age of life forms. And they say ‘Well, we’ve got life, we’ve got bones of dinosaurs which we think are 200 million years old. Adam only lived six thousand years ago. If we say that dinosaurs were alive at the time of Adam, or if we say that we’ve got bones of men that are 200,000 years old, we’ve got to have an explanation to answer that. Well, we’re going to use evolution to answer it, and we’re going to say that the scientists are right when…when they date bones, and therefore Adam wasn’t six thousand years ago: he was much longer ago than that, but we still want to use Genesis 1, because if we disagree with that then we disagree with the Bible we’re…not believers anymore. So we’re going to try and stitch those two ideas together and make up this intermediate idea called theistic evolution.’[1]
Speaking as an evolutionary creationist, I can confirm that what Clark has said is a distortion verging on parody. Given that websites such as this one have detailed what ECs believe for some time, either he has neglected to properly research his subject or he is wilfully distorting what ECs believe for polemical reasons

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Four Views on the Historical Adam: Denis Lamoureux

The third and final part of the BioLogos series of articles on the Historical Adam features Denis Lamoureux, who unlike Collins and Walton rejects the idea of a historical Adam. He argues:
Christians throughout history have steadfastly believed that Adam was a real person. Yet in the light of evolutionary sciences, some evangelical Christians are questioning his existence. This chapter embraces evolutionary creation—the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life, including humans, through an ordained, sustained, and intelligent design-reflecting natural process. Similar to the way that the Lord used embryological mechanisms to create each of us in our mother’s womb, He also employed evolutionary processes to create humanity. This chapter rejects the assumption that God revealed scientific facts in the Bible thousands of years before their discovery by modern science. Instead, Holy Scripture features an ancient understanding of the physical world (e.g., the 3-tier universe with a flat earth). The Word of God also has an ancient conceptualization of biological origins, which asserts that living [organisms] were created quickly and completely into fully mature forms. The apostle Paul’s references to Adam are rooted in this ancient biology. The chapter concludes that the biblical figure Adam is a vital, but incidental, ancient vessel that transports inerrant spiritual truths: only humans are created in the Image of God, only humans have fallen into sin, and our Creator judges us for our sinfulness. (p. 37)
His two part interview can be found here and here.

Four Views on the Historical Adam: Jack Collins

Part 2 of the BioLogos series on the historical Adam features Jack Collins, who like Walton argues for a historical Adam, though one 'at the headwaters of humanity.' Collins argues:
I argue that the best way to account for the biblical presentation of human life is to understand that Adam and Eve were both real persons at the headwaters of humankind. By “biblical presentation” I refer not only to the story in Genesis and the biblical passages that refer to it, but also to the larger biblical story line, which deals with God’s good creation invaded by sin, for which God has a redemptive plan; of Israel’s calling to be a light to the nations; and of the church’s prospect of successfully bringing God’s light to the whole world. That story concerns the unique role and dignity of the human race, which is a matter of daily experience for everyone: All people yearn for God and need him, must depend on him to deal with their sinfulness, and crave a wholesome community for their lives to flourish.
I argue that the nature of the biblical material should keep us from being too literalistic in our reading of Adam and Eve, leaving room for an Earth that is not young, but that the biblical material along with good critical thinking provides certain freedoms and limitations for connecting the Bible’s creation account to a scientific and historical account of human origins (p. 143).
His two-part interview is found here and here.

Four Views on the Historical Adam: John Walton

Currently, BioLogos is hosting interviews with the four contributing authors of the recent book Four Views on the Historical Adam. My belief in a historical Adam who was a recent representative, but not the universal ancestor of, the human race is probably closest approximated by John Walton, whose views are in part 1. Anyone who takes this argument seriously however needs to be informed of the spectrum of views among theologically conservative Christians on this subject.

Part 1 features John Walton, whose views are summarised below:
In my view, Adam and Eve are historical figures—real people in a real past. Nevertheless, I am persuaded that the biblical text is more interested in them as archetypal figures who represent all of humanity. This is particularly true in the account in Genesis 2 about their formation. I contend that the formation accounts are not addressing their material formation as biological specimens, but are addressing the forming of all of humanity: we are all formed from dust, and we are all gendered halves. If this is true, Genesis 2 is not making claims about biological origins of humanity, and therefore the Bible should not be viewed as offering competing claims against science about human origins. If this is true, Adam and Eve also may or may not be the first humans or the parents of the entire human race. Such an archetypal focus is theologically viable and is well-represented in the ancient Near East (p. 89).
More here.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Neville Clark's attack on evolution - 2

The next mistake in Neville Clark's attack on evolution is in failing to properly define what evolutionary creationists (or theistic  evolutionists as Clark and others in our community persist in calling them) believe. The major fault in his argument here is to conflate abiogenesis and evolution and argue that 'theistic evolutionists' reject abiogenesis but accept evolution. This ignores the fact that there is no unanimity among evolutionary creationists on this point. Some accept abiogenesis while others reject it. The fundamental points on which they agree, and which Clark's taxonomy ignores are that they accept the fact of common descent and large-scale evolutionary change and do not see Genesis as being concerned with the specific details of how God brought about the diversity of life we see both now, and in the past.

Neville Clark's attack on evolution - 1

Neville Clark is another Christadelphian who thinks that evolution is not only wrong, but must be eradicated from the Christadelphian community, even at the cost of excommunicating those who accept it. Clark asserts during a 90 minute long address and Q&A session that his talk will squash evolution flat in our community. Clark is seriously mistaken if he thinks that his talk will achieve that aim, as his address betrays insufficient knowledge of evolutionary biology, misrepresents evolutionary creationists, and fails to appreciate Genesis in its original context.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Karl Giberson: Geocentrism is what real Biblical literalism looks like

Actually, this is what real Biblical literalism looks like:

Geocentrism, as Robert Schadewald said is merely the moderate wing of Biblical literalism, with YEC and the above-illustrated models being the liberal and conservative wings, respectively. Physicist and Christian Karl Giberson, in commenting on The Principle, a pseudoscientific film by geocentrist Robert Sungenis makes the point that Sungenis and the geocentrists are far more consistent in their literalism than Ken Ham and the YECs.

Friday, 4 April 2014

One step forward and ten steps back: The Christadelphian magazine buys into the 'Blood Moon' nonsense

After the disgraceful spectacle of seeing The Christadelphian grant cover article status to a young earth creationist article in the November 2013 edition, there were signs that this could have been a one-off lapse with the January 2014 article on the challenges inherent in preaching to a post-Christian world, and a fascinating article by archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer in the March 2014 issue on the location of Sodom showing a marked increase in the intellectual tone of the magazine. The granting of cover status to an article on the 'blood moon' nonsense however shows that this may not have been a one-off lapse. If we want to brand ourselves as a fundamentalist irrelevancy, this is exactly how to do it.