Biblical inerrancy vs. physical evidence: continued

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The previous thread, “Is Creationism Child’s Play?”, was closed by an admin because it was getting so long that it was loading slowly or not at all. A contributing factor is that PT has apparently been experiencing some kind of denial-of-service attack which is also slowing things down.

I have been out of town and not able to contribute to the thread much, or even read all of it, but apparently it has evolved from mudslinging into a reasonable dialog with a young-earth creationist, Mark Hausam, who actually wants to discuss the issues. Mark has pretty much acknowledged that his belief is based on a literal, inerrant interpretation of the Bible, and that he is willing to invoke miraculous “appearance of age” arguments to explain away physical evidence that conflicts with his interpretation of the Bible. Usually this sort of person is about six months away from complete deconversion from creationism. With the appearance-of-age argument, they have already admitted that the physical evidence on its face is totally against them, and that they have admitted that Last Thursdayism is as well-supported as young-earth creationism (Last Tuesdayism, of course, is unspeakable heresy). Once they’ve gone this far, most people can’t maintain the necessary doublethink for very long (Paul Nelson, John Mark Reynolds, Kurt Wise, and Marcus Ross are about the only exceptions, and they each have the peculiar ability to remorsely drown their scientific conscience whenever reality intrudes upon their textual interpretation).

This sort of discussion should be encouraged so I am starting a new thread for those who wish to discuss the issues. I will be watching the thread to ensure that it remains courteous.

1000 Comments

Well, it’s interesting, but to point out the fallacy of the Bible, one needs to educate the unwilling audience that Christianity is a great-granddaughter religion of many religions. Not the “successor” of Judasim. And, frankly, there isn’t enough space to put years of learning and studying down.

So, instead, I’ll ask a question. From this question, one can research possible permutations of the query and start the process of enlightment. The question is: Why do Jews plant trees? (Hint: It is a religious question, not agricultural.)

As to Mark Hausam’s request on books that deal with evolution:

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen Jay Gould

Evolution by Futuyma, Douglas J.

That’s a pretty good start. Gould stuff is heavy, so keep him till last. As a man who was brought up to blindly believe in the Bible, I do not think they will change your mind on your position. Rather, I’d advice you to read other religious texts of this world (there are millions, but start with the major ones). You’ll realize just how ridiculous the religous texts of other cultures are; then, sooner or later, you’ll realize that the same ridiculous arguments are made splendidly in the Bible over and over again. With that first seed of doubt (the beginning of all good human beings), you’ll be able to actually approach these texts without the baggage of hell, heaven, Jesus, Mary, the Pope, or the childish and barbarous believes of people that feared a solar eclipse.

Mark has offered a number of arguments for why the Bible is really inerrant, and why he thinks there is empirical evidence proving the existence of God. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on just one for now:

Mark Hausam in #180588 Wrote:

On rabbits being ruminents and bats being birds: Here are a couple of good websites that provide a good, more full response to these objections: http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v20/i4/… and http://www.tektonics.org/af/batbird.html. As I said before, these objections make the mistake of confusing real error with more laid-back biological descriptions. The Bible’s definition of “chew the cud” is broader than ours and can include rabbits. “Birds” in the Bible is a broader category than our modern one as well—it lumps pretty much all flying creatures together. So there are no errors here. A lot of times, accusations of biblical error or contradiction stem from a superficial and shallow reading of the text. It is actually, in some ways, similar to the “quote mining” practice many Darwinists think creationists constantly engage in.

The problem with this argument is that the English definition of “cud” does not include what rabbits chew. Similarly, the English word “birds” does not include bats.

Mark argues that the Bible doesn’t really mean “birds” as the word is defined in English. It really means something broader like “birds and bats” or “flying animals” or something similar.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that the ‘original’ version of the Bible really did say “birds and bats” or “flying animals.” If so, then current English versions are mistranslated. Use of the English word “birds” when you mean to include bats is wrong. It’s an error.

There’s just no way around it. At least some versions of the Bible must contain errors.

Now, this argument by itself doesn’t prove that every version of the Bible has errors. But any English versions that use “birds” to mean “birds and bats” are incorrect. They are fallible.

Having determined that some versions of the Bible contain errors, we can’t escape the logical possibility that other versions, perhaps even all versions, contain errors. Furthermore, if Mark truly values logic as he claims, he should admit that if the Bible means something broader than the English definition of “birds,” it may also mean something broader than the English definition of “day.”

Please note: I’m not actually arguing that all apparent errors and scientific inaccuracies in the Bible are due to mistranslation. That’s Carol’s schtick. I’m just taking Mark’s argument and showing how it logically requires that the English translations of the Bible (that he presumably thinks are infallible) must contain errors.

qetzal: As I’ve said before, the Bible does not contain “errors” so much as it contains imprecise language about subjects that are not the authors’ primary concern. The Bible is sloppy about “flying animals” and “cud” because the authors were busy trying to tell us about something else entirely: God’s will toward Man. The “errors” are committed by people like Mark, who insist that the Bible is an inerrant and infallible source on subjects its authors didn’t care about at all.

Here’s another example: If I were to say “Terrorists must be hunted to the far corners of the Earth,” this would not be a geographical error, because I’m not talking about geography, and anyone who knows English would understand that my reference to a flat Earth with “corners” was merely a rhetorical device. If you were to call me a flat-Earther, I would point out that you were making the “error” of missing the point of what I was trying to say. People like Mark and the AIG crowd are making this mistake with the entire Bible.

When you say “Terrorists must be hunted to the far corners of the Earth” you are speaking entirely in the metaphorical sense (the metaphor being a vestigial part of a more ignorant stage in Western civilization).

However, the mistake that moderates make lies exactly with your example. On what authority/evidence/reason do you assign Biblical verses to be factual or metaphorical. For example, most Christian moderates make it quite clear that Genesis is simply a metaphor/analogy/etc etc; but then they go on and say that the resurrection of Jesus is factual. On what basis is this distinction made, except the fact that if Jesus’s resurrection proved to be simply a metaphor, Christian faith could not survive in its present form.

If Young Earth Creationists willfully ignore the findings of geology, than moderate Christians willfully ignore the finding of genetics of conception. Why keep firm on the laws of geology in arguing against the Young Earthers, but loosen the laws of genetics when it comes to Jesus’s birth.

It is this double of standards of moderates that irks me so.

Mark wrote:

“If you come to the scientific evidence without an acceptance of the six day interpretation of Genesis, and instead assume a naturalistic uniformity throughout past time, you will probably take the rings as good indicators of age. This is not a matter of the Genesis-believer ignoring or distorting the evidence; it is a matter of the evidence being interpreted, quite legitimately, differently due to differing beliefs coming from other sources.”

So, let’s summarize shall we? I challenged Mark to set aside his belief in the Bible in evaluating the evidence. He even agreed that if the Bible were true the evidence should bring one to the same conclusion. Then he admits that the evidence actually gives you an answer that is different from that given in the Bible, but he simply can’t accept it due to his prior assumption of biblical inerrancy, which he still refuses to question.

Hate to say I told you so, but there it is. Mark is emotionally incapable of questioning his prior assumptions, whatever the evidence. Of course, in so doing, he is forced to adopt a belief in a deceitful diety who renders all evidence irrelevant. Wow, talk about being impervious to evidence! And of course he still claims not to be authoritarian!

Well, it was fun for a while. But really, what can ever be accomplished by arguing with this guy? Maybe Nick is right and he has finally reached a state of cognitive dissonance that will enable a breakthrough. I sure hope so because this is geeting really painful to watch. Thanks to all those who tried so hard to get through to him. I don’t think anyone can reasonably object to the way that he was treated here. I would suggest that this discussion be archieved and examined by a profesional psychologist. There must be at least one paper in here somewhere.

“On what authority/evidence/reason do you assign Biblical verses to be factual or metaphorical. “

Answer: The same kind of hermeneutics that Raging Bee used to claim that the Biblical use of the word “birds” includes all flying animals (I assume he means bats, insects, flying squirrels, etc.)

There is very little difference in the hermeneutics that “inerrantists” use than mainstream Christian’s use. One forms a theology and views the Bible through the lens of that theology. The difference is that mainstream Christians are more honest about it and actually consider those hermeneutics to be important, where inerrantists deny that they use them.

Hey, speaking of Dr. Kurt Wise, I have a copy of his 2002 book Faith, Form, and Time. I’ve found it to be quite impressive, quite clear, quite Biblical, and quite rational.

I’ve quoted from it repeatedly in another forum or two, and I’ve noticed that evolutionists in those forums honestly can’t seem to refute his actual statements and examples. Can’t even come close. (And no, I’m not “six months” or any other foreseeable time estimate “away from complete deconversion from creationism.” If anything, the evolutionist inability to deal with Wise’s book that I’ve witnessed elsewhere, has made clear to me that biblical creationism is far stronger, far more reasonable, than some folks want to admit.)

So for now, I have only one question to ask. Does any evolutionist here already have a copy of that particular book?

FL

I am a Christian and would love to engage in some honest and thoughtful dialog with with those of different persuasions or convictions. The only reason I am particularly drawn to this thread is that the goal was to be courteous with one another. I am used to people thinking differently or working with different presuppositions and am not intimidated or angry about it. I would like to use free conference call services to dialog on the phone with a few people about the issues. I find most of the internet chat highly polarizing. I think if both sides were more honest about the issues involved in the creation/evolution debate, there would be a lot more charity in the discussions. I do believe that the the preponderance of the evidence; including the scientific, historical, theological and philosophical aspects of it point clearly to God as the Creator of this universe who gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Anyways, a little about me since I like to know a little about those with whom I am talking with as well.

Graduate of UCLA (Non Science, but did take human evolution) 10 Years in the Tech Industry Entrepreneur/Real Estate Investor (Semi Retired - Decided to go back to school) Married, Father of 4 (10, 8, 6, and 4 years old) Masters of Biblical Studies Talbot School of Theology In Process Masters in Philosophy of Science and Religion Very familiar with Creationism (AIG Conf attendee) and Intelligent Design (And there are some significant differences.. as well as similar motivations) Read Dawkins, Creationism Trojan Horse, On the Origin of the Species, Plenty of modern literature from both sides.…

Email me if you are interested in some dialog via telephone. I will email back and set up a conference call. Please only email if you are willing to engage a courteous dialog. This should only help us in the process of persuading each other.

Thanks,

Daniel Adelseck [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

PS: Any of you folks in the Orange County area??. My treat for lunch in Irvine.

Dan

I’m sure most of the PT gang is aware of the tendency of the ID/Creationists to bowdlerize every scientific concept used to answer their goofy claims.

While I appreciate Nick’s desire to keep this going, I’m skeptical that the debate that Mark is trying to provoke has anything to do with his wanting to acquire a better understanding of science for himself or for his audience. I’ve seen this pattern too often in the past.

I think I will hold to my triage strategy I mentioned in my last post on the original thread and not try to educate him. I’ll simply point out some problems without telling him how to fix them. He should already know about books and libraries.

He has most of the early Greek confusions about infinities, infinite series, convergence, divergence, and Zeno’s paradoxes. Definitely has not had a calculus course.

He doesn’t seem to know anything about non-Euclidian geometries and their implications for cosmology. He hasn’t been exposed to any of the material on what it is like for a creature to live in various dimensions in Euclidian and non-Euclidian spaces. Hasn’t even read Abbott’s little gem. He knows nothing about the concepts of boundedness and openness from mathematics and what the implications of these are for cosmology.

He doesn’t appear to have heard anything about the relationship of space and time and the effects of gravitational fields on the passage of time.

He hasn’t heard about most of modern physics and what we know about the effects of the vacuum on the energy levels of hydrogen and the development of quantum electrodynamics, and what all that has to do with where the energy in the universe comes from.

Then there are all his quasi-medieval concepts about ontology, topology and other space-time concepts cobbled together from who knows where (to say nothing of his being unaware of current models of the universe).

So, not only are his concepts of biology and evolution screwed up, his math, physics and cosmology are as well. Trying to correct this many mangled concepts in a debate is to be drawn into the ID/Creationist debating tactic that has the scientist thinking he is debating science when the debate has nothing to do with science. It is posturing and publicity for their political and sectarian base. The audience is seeing an atheist scientist (plural in this case) being skewered and roasted over the flames of Hell. Most have no interest in the science. It’s about religion.

Of all the strange things Mark said in his last post on the previous thread, he tops it off with this one in response to another post.

Mark Hausam Wrote:

“A lot of Christians read the Bible differently.” I know. But that doesn’t prove they are right.

Do I finally hear the sound of one hand clapping?

He needs to learn something about religion.

Hi I will admit that I have not been to this website before; I found it while I was researching evolution for my biology class. I’m not any sort of expert or intellectual person, I’m just me (a community college student.) I will probably not visit this site again for a while, but I did want to comment, to express my thoughts.

The following is not immediately relevant, but I will use it as a metaphor. In my psychology class, I recently learned the difference between sensation and perception. Sensation is defined (basically) as essentially meaningless input that goes into our brains through one of our sensory organs. Perception is how our brain makes sense out of it. My teacher used the example of foreign language: when we hear a foreign language spoken, we experience an auditory sensation, but do not perceive any meaning (we cannot make sense of what is being said.) By contrast, a person who speaks that language will receive the auditory sensation, be able to perceive meaning out of it, and be able to produce a response.

Here’s how it’s relevant: in the example that David cited, discussing with Mark about geology, I see one “sensation” (the rings) and two “perceptions” (from perspectives based on creation and evolution.) Like the foreign language example, each person perceives the evidence differently, because they come from different perspectives. Perception can’t easily be separated from personal identity; we have to see things as we see them, from what we know. I will also admit that I do believe in absolute truth; both perceptions can’t be entirely true.

Not to do Mark any disservice by presuming to know his thoughts (or yours, for that matter), but I think what he is saying is that since we do come from different belief backgrounds, we will interpret differently.

For me personally, I know that I am incapable of questioning God. You are correct there. At least, I would really hope to be so. Don’t misunderstand; I have had questions, but I can honestly not tell you one instance where He has not been faithful to me. You are right, it is not logical to have such a belief. The Bible even says it is not logical: if you are interested, check out 1 Corinthians 2:14 and 1:19-25. What the verses say (from my interpretation) is that Christ’s message is foolishness in the world’s eyes. What you see as foolish is the very core of my existence, and I know it’s true. I know that’s not very convincing for you, but I’m not trying to convince you. I am merely explaining why I cannot be convinced to agree with you, although I recognize that to you, my explanation will not be logical either.

So, I completely understand that you think what I believe is basically foolishness, and although I wish you didn’t’t, I accept that you do.

It looks like I have gone on long enough, and on a topic not directly related to Biblical inerrancy, but I would like to leave you with one final thought: if you don’t know God, how can you judge Him as deceiving? Essentially, I think the reason that you think Christianity (because it professes belief in creation according to the Bible) is foolishness is that you do not know God. I don’t mean this as a deridement against you, but you can’t really believe creation unless you trust God. Up to this point, I have been assuming that you classify me as outside of logic. One of us is; you can state logical facts to show that it is not you, but how can you know it is your logic that is correct? Science is a living process, which has experienced much change throughout its history.

I’m done now; I want to let you know that from my part, we’re not enemies, we just don’t agree. Thanks for taking the time to read this. So, there was your glimpse inside the mind of a Christian, one who tries hard to follow Jesus but still stumbles, and who is self-acknowledgedly foolish. I cannot be convinced because my hope is lasting.

k sez…

if you don’t know God, how can you judge Him as deceiving?

… missing the point entirely.

The argument is not intended to judge your God.

We are not evil, rebellious spirits. Some of us have faith in your God, some of us don’t.

Most of us – either never having been brought up in a faith-full household in the first place, or having actually looked at the evidence – just don’t think your God did what you say it did. (shrug)

It’s not your God that’s being judged, it’s the factual accuracy of a collection of retranslations of oral traditions of bronze age nomads.

Maybe there’s a deep spiritual/cultural/sociological message there, maybe it’s just a book.

Either way, adopting a literal Creationist interpretation of physical evidence doesn’t help us understand the world around us in any immediate, useful, pragmatic way.

Quite often it can in fact get in the way of useful information.

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I think it’s quite amusing when people quote their absolute faith in the Bible to explain why geology, physics, biology, cosmology, etc, are wrong - including, as has been pointed out, the sort of science that merely involves counting. Dendrochronology is almost spookily accurate - and no, you can’t look at it in any way whatsoever, whatever your belief, and see creation in 4004BC (or any number congruent with YECism). The best you can do is spin some ideas about why dendro doesn’t work past a certain point, but there’s no evidence for that… outside one particular reading of the Bible.

Since the Bible was written by men and (I presume they believe) the earth and everything in, on and around it was created by God, isn’t this putting the works of men above the works of God?

Seems perilously close to blasphemy to me. Perhaps they’ve been misled by self-pride and the Devil.

R

k- I really don’t want to get into your personal faith, but your example of a foreign language is a good metaphor for the evolution-creation debate. As it happens, I speak French. Unless you do, too, spoken French is just sounds to you, whereas to me, it carries information. Would you honestly claim that your perception is just as valid as mine, that it’s perfectly all right to define the French language as a series of meaningless sounds? Doesn’t it seem to you that if you simply studied French, it would make as much sense to you as it does to me? The same issue is at the heart of the evolution-creation debate. Scientists spend years making observations and doing experiments. They work hard at defining their variables so that they know they are really observing what they think they’re observing. They correct their misconceptions. And what they have come up with is overwhelming evidence, over thousands and thousands of observations, that the earth is very old, and that humans evolved over a long period of time from simpler organisms. Then along comes a creationist, who has done no research, never looked at the subject closely at all, but who annouces, “well, I just don’t see it myself, and my opinion is just as valid as yours is.” How do you expect the scientists to react? They react about the same way I do when somebody pretends they’re speaking French when they make nonsense sounds. The issue, in my mind, is not whether you believe in God. It’s whether you believe in respecting other peoples’ abilities and accomplishments– and I find it hard to believe you’ll find any verse in the Bible that tells you not to do that!

Nick Matzke Wrote:

Usually this sort of person is about six months away from complete deconversion from creationism.

Or complete deconversion to “don’t ask, don’t tell” ID.

Roland Deschain Wrote:

As to Mark Hausam’s request on books that deal with evolution:

Those books may be overload. For theists, the 1st book I’d recommend is “Finding Darwin’s God” by Kenneth Miller. Sorry to be a cynic, but in Mark’s case I doubt that it will do any good either, other than giving him more quotes to mine.

hoary puccon:

It’s even worse than that. To use the analogy of a french speaker de nouveau, we have the scientist/french speaker, confronted with the creationist/non-french speaker that nevertheless believes he knows how to speak French (understands science).

A french speaker comes along and utters a sentence(an event happens): Veux-tu déjeuner avec moi? The scientist correctly interprets the sentence to be an invitation to lunch. The Creationist thinks that he has just heard “Virtue as soon as to fast with me” (virtu dès jeuner avec moi. quoi!), and comes to the conclusion that the universe is a mysterious place that only God can possibly understand.

The thing is, only one of the two perceptions is correct, that of our French speaker/scientist. Based on what we believe he has said, the French-speaker/scientist can predict that the person speaking is going to accompany them to go and eat some lunch. The Creationist is completely incapable of making any prediction whatsoever based on their perception… This ability to make a prediction is what separates the correct interpretation from the false interpretation, so that we can comfortably say that the scientist has got it right…

Has anyone thought to tell Mark that the conversation continues here?

Anyway, to respond to Mark’s last point, concerning the FSM, blessed by its name, the FSM is indetectible, so firstly we have no scientific proof of its material composition. Secondly, if a physical manifestation poses a problem, the same problem exists for Christianity by the presence of Jesus on Earth. So no Mark, that doesn’t help prove that the Bible is more correct than the FSM, it just reinforces the fact that your book’s myth is no better than many other myths out there.

So, care to try again to find a substantive difference between the Bible and the Gospel of the FSM, which should make us more inclined to trust the Bible?

I guess I have to remind everyone again not to fall in to the trap of “YEC vs. evolution.” FL, Mark and possibly “k” want you to think that “Godless Darwinists” are the problem, while the OEC, FEC, etc., can just get swept under rug. Sorry, if one claims that the evidence supports “Biblical inerrancy,” one needs to confront all the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations before peddling the tired old false dichotomy. Otherwise one can reasonably be suspected of deliberately trying to mislead.

Comment #180839

Posted by Frank J on June 1, 2007 5:36 AM (e)

Or complete deconversion to “don’t ask, don’t tell” ID.

Funniest think I’ve read in a long time.

K,

Thanks for stopping by. Glad to have you join the conversation.

First, you should really read the previous thread to know what we were discussing and with whom. I know it got over 300 posts long, but if you want to follow this conversation I would definately advise it.

Second, no one here is your enemy (I hope). No one here cares if you believe in God or the Bible or not (I hope). This is about science (I hope).

Third, you are correct that there is a difference between sensation and perception. In fact, that is what science is all about. That is why we try to identify our assumptions and test them as rigorously as possible. That is why personal experience does not count as evidence in science. That is why we perform controlled experiments. That is why the intuitive answer is not always correct.

No one is asking you not to believe in God. The question is what do you do with evidence? We have already had at least one example of someone who will not accept any evidence that conflicts with their prior assumptions. Needless to say, that is somewhat of a conversation stopper when it comes to science. If there is an unbroken record of tree ring data that goes back more than 50,000 years and if this record is correlated with other indicators of past climatic conditions and if this result is consistent with the results from ice core data, pollen stratigraphy, magnetic field reversals and all other data sets, what do you do? Do you say the earth is 6,000 years old and the evidence is worthless? Do you say God lied to fool us? Do you say that counting rings is just perception and therefore can be ignored? If so, science cannot help you. If not, there is much to learn.

As Troff pointed out, faith is not strong if it is never tested. Those who refuse to look at the evidence without a prior assumption of Biblical inerrancy simply lack the faith to do so. If your interpretation of the Bible is correct the evidence must bear this out, if it is not, then assuming that it is will lead nowhere.

Roland Deschain wrote:

On what authority/evidence/reason do you assign Biblical verses to be factual or metaphorical[?]

Such judgements are based on personal experience and the usefulness/relevance of the bible text in question. IMHO, the history is unreliable (because these were primitive people and the historians had an agenda); the science is obsolete and beside the authors’ point; and the value of the Bible – or any other “holy book” – comes from the moral/ethical guidance and “life lessons” it offers, not from the niggling details about bats, cud and ancient tribal wars.

For example, most Christian moderates make it quite clear that Genesis is simply a metaphor/analogy/etc etc; but then they go on and say that the resurrection of Jesus is factual.

For starters, the Genesis stuff has been more conclusively disproven than the Resurrection. Second, the Resurrection story is central to Christian doctrine partly because it resonates as a story/analogy of spiritual suffering, death and rebirth; and partly because the whole point of Jesus’ teachings is to lead people to the rebirth he thought we should all strive for. Drop the Genesis stuff and you’d still have the uplifting Resurrection story, and the teachings that go with it; drop the Resurrection story, and (at least for some people) the teachings would be a bit less potent.

On what basis is this distinction made, except the fact that if Jesus’s resurrection proved to be simply a metaphor, Christian faith could not survive in its present form.

Even as a metaphor, the Resurrection has more of a kick than Genesis. Yes, that’s a purely subjective answer, but it’s one a lot of people share, and I’m stickin’ to it.

It is this double of standards of moderates that irks me so.

It’s called the complexity of real life. Get used to it. Religious extremists hate moderates for the same reason – are you sure you want to be seen in such company?

k wrote:

What the verses say (from my interpretation) is that Christ’s message is foolishness in the world’s eyes. What you see as foolish is the very core of my existence, and I know it’s true. I know that’s not very convincing for you, but I’m not trying to convince you. I am merely explaining why I cannot be convinced to agree with you, although I recognize that to you, my explanation will not be logical either.

I, for one, am not asking you to drop your belief in Christ. I am only asking you to recognize that belief in Christ – or any other God(ess) who speaks to your heart – need not force you to reject honest science as a tool for explaining physical events here on Earth. (I’m sure you already understand that belief in Christ does not require you to use the Bible as a tool in crime-scene investigation. Right?) I would also remind you that Christ himself says that belief in him – not in a literal interpretation of Genesis – is what will bring you to God.

…if you don’t know God, how can you judge Him as deceiving?

Ask Mark; he’s the one saying that God created things “in a mature state” so we’d think they were older than they are. We’re the ones disputing that dodge.

How can the bible be inerrant if it has two different lists for the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23 and Matthew 1:1)?

Ciao!

Nick: Thanks for renewing this thread. Since I didn’t get to reply to Mark on the old thread, and since I find ATBC to be a bit cumbersome (if only because I’m not used to it), I figure I’ll repost my reply here. If that’s too repetitive, or if you find my post too uncivil in tone (I was getting a bit sick of a lot of repeated groundless assertions on Mark’s part), then please delete it and accept my apologies…

Mark: If you’re still willing to continue the discussion, and managed to find your way here, here’s my response to your latest post, which I could not post at PT because that thread had been closed to comments…

…probably the biggest difference between my thinking and many of yours is that I take seriously the claim of the Bible to be a reliable revelation from God.

Wrong again: the difference is that some of us take the Bible as a reliable revelation about a specific, and limited, range of subject-matter, which includes Man’s relationship to God but not natural science; while you seem to take it as an “infallible” source on ALL subject-matter. And as I said before (in a post you continue to ignore), we have good reason to believe that you are misusing the Bible and thus missing the point your God and his prophets are trying to make. And some of us who see this are themselves Christians.

I think my arguments for the existence of God are empirical.

What you “think” is incorrect, however many times you say it. You might as well say “I think the Earth is flat” over and over. Calling your arguments “empirical” does not make them so.

We have, therefore, a deeper philosophical disagreement that undoubtedly affects the way we evaluate things.

Exactly. And our philosophy is BETTER than yours, because ours allows us to observe God’s creation honestly, increase our understanding of it, and get a lot of useful things done; while yours just sticks you into a bubble-verse where you simply discount facts that don’t “fit,” and therefore learn nothing, go nowhere, and refuse to recognize or respect the education and progress of others.

Jesus himself partied with politicians and other sinners, and never made any lame excuses about how he could never get anyone else to see things his way. He also answered people’s questions, even when he knew they were trying to trap him. Can’t you at least try to follow that example? It’s not like we’re about to nail you to anything.

Richard Dawkins seems to agree with this analysis. In The God Delusion, he rejects Gould’s NOMA and argues that the existence of God is a scientific question.

So now you use an atheist’s opinion to validate your own, but you won’t follow the example of your own Savior? That’s just beyond ridiculous.

The Bible’s definition of “chew the cud” is broader than ours and can include rabbits. “Birds” in the Bible is a broader category than our modern one as well—it lumps pretty much all flying creatures together.

In other words, the Bible is vague on scientific and technical matters, because that’s not what its authors wanted to talk about; therefore it cannot be considered reliable, let alone “infallible,” on those subjects. That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you all along.

A lot of times, accusations of biblical error or contradiction stem from a superficial and shallow reading of the text.

And reading the Bible only for its literal meaning, without admitting it might have a more important metaphorical or allegorical message, is about as “superficial and shallow” as it gets. (Notice how you’re going on and on about bats, birds, cud and Genesis, and saying NOTHING AT ALL about the Ten Commandments or the actual words of Jesus? You’re missing the whole point of the Bible!)

“All your arguments are simply ungrounded assertions.” No, they are not. They are based in good logical thinking. They are substantive arguments that need to be dealt with on a deeper level than being merely dismissed without serious consideration…

If you make unfounded assertions without serious consideration on your part, then you should expect those assertions to be dismissed without serious consideration on our part.

Sometimes we get confused dealing with these things because we fail to distinguish what really exists, what must exist, etc., with mathematical ideas or concepts that may be useful mathematically but which cannot exist in the real world.

If such “ideas or concepts” are useful and have real effects in the real world, then, for all practical purposes, they “exist in the real world.”

“Who created God?” No one. God is a self-existent being.

If the Universe can’t be “self-existent,” then how can you be at all sure God can be? This is yet another unfounded assertion that you make to support your own belief. Has anyone made any attempt to prove what can and cannot be “self-existent?”

“You keep saying you don’t understand things and then you say you do.” Like most people, I understand some things and not others. This is not exactly contradictory.

In your case, it is: first you admit you don’t understand the technical issues that underpin our arguments, then you imply that you understand them enough to know we’re wrong.

I am very familiar with biblical exegesis.

Most of my Christian acquaintances, at least one of whom went to a Jesuit high school, would disagree with that assertion.

“The Bible is not a science book.” That is true. It speaks in common-sense and phenomenological terms, rather than in strictly accurate 21st century biological or other scientific language. However, it does make understandable claims that mean something, and my assertion is that it is always right when it does so.

You have repeatedly admitted that the Bible’s language is “imprecise;” therefore it cannot be “always right” on subjects where precision is required. You have just effectively admitted that your “assertion” is wrong.

“A lot of Christians read the Bible differently.” I know. But that doesn’t prove they are right.

And none of this proves you’re right, either. But the fact that those other Christians are more knowledgeable and honest than you, proves that they’re a lot more LIKELY to be right than you are.

Roland Deschains -

I would like to make a different set of reading recommendations for Mark Hausam, or any other creationist.

Popularizing books, even very good ones, will never provide in depth enough understanding to root out intensely held biases. Popular books implicitly require some acceptance of the expertise of the author, as by necessity they leave out details.

I recommend a basic textbook in each of the following subjects (see below). I have not provided links, because I don’t wish to seem to endorse any particular bookseller, and these subject terms should easily allow a search for the standard books in the area.

1) Mathematics to the level of someone who has completed a standard freshman university year in science, that is, algebra, trigonometry, and basic calculus. 2) Basic statistics 3) General Chemistry 4) General Phyics 5) General Biology 6) Introductory Genetics 7) Introductory Molecular Biology 8) Introductory Cell Biology 9) Introductory Biochemistry 10)It is not really necessary to read a specific book on “Evolutionary Biology”, since the topic will come up in diverse ways in all the other books, but it obviously an excellent idea.

These would represent a MINIMUM for someone who wishes to think seriously and critically about the theory of evolution.

The bar is much higher for those who “disagree”. I don’t need a PhD in physics to have some general knowledge of the theory of relativity, but if I wished to “deny” it, or seriously consider that it may be “wrong”, I would need to complete a high level of study of it.

Wow! Our conversation has led to a whole new thread. I was quite surprised when I saw that. Thanks to Nick Matzke for taking the conversation seriously enough to want to help it continue.

I noticed a couple of other creationists have shown up. Hopefully some will join this conversation who have a better idea of the technical scientific points than I do. That has definitely been a weak point in the discussion thus far. I want to learn more, but this sort of a thread is not the place to learn as much as I need to (although it has been helpful as far as it goes). By the way, Nick, I have requested the two books you mentioned through interlibrary loan, so hopefully I will receive them shortly. Thank you again for that recommendation.

OK, my time is limited this morning, so I want to focus on one particular point. I am very interested by the way the whole “appearance of age” idea has been interpreted by evolutionists on this thread (meaning this and the previous thread as a single unit). I find a particular sentence of Nick Matzke’s, from his intro to the new thread, quite intriguing: “Mark has pretty much acknowledged that his belief is based on a literal, inerrant interpretation of the Bible, and that he is willing to invoke miraculous ‘appearance of age’ arguments to explain away physical evidence that conflicts with his interpretation of the Bible.” Now, that is not how I see what I have been doing at all. An important question is, Why do I see what I’ve done so differently than Nick does? I’m betting that this is due to a difference of underlying assumptions.

Here’s what I see happening: I am confronted with the issue of tree rings containing a record going beyond the biblical chronology. I point out that on a six-day creationist model, one would predict an appearance of age or maturity to exist in newly and quickly created things. This is not an ad-hoc argument against evolution, but a natural implication or prediction of the six-day creation model. If God creates a whole world in six days, full of geological phenomena and living creatures, it is quite natural to suppose that these were created in an adult, or mature, form. If I knew nothing about the existence of evolutionary theory, and was concerned to argue with no view at all, I would still expect trees to be created with many tree rings, Adam and Eve to have belly buttons, etc. So I pointed out that this implication of the six-day model would make it impossible to reliably date trees or anything else using tree rings from trees that could have come from before the flood. The mature-creation implication would also raise questions about other dating methods that use rocks, etc. It would raise a lot of questions in general. Therefore, I pointed out that any conclusions based on methods that would have been naturally skewed due to the natural implications of the six-day model cannot be used as evidence against that model. That seems to me a very reasonable statement to make. When you are trying to decide between two theories, which one is true and which is false, you can’t use evidence that would be explained equally on both models. To use an analogy, let’s say you have two people (Dan and Sarah) trying to decide whether their friend Floyd is planning on starting to write his novel today (OK, it’s a weird analogy, but bear with me : )). They both observe Floyd entering an office supply store and leaving with reams of paper. Dan turns to Sarah and says, “There, that proves I’m right! He’s starting his novel today!” Sarah replies, “That doesn’t prove anything. It is equally possible that he has bought the paper today planning to start tomorrow.” My point is that in order to decide between two conflicting theories, you have to find evidence that would be true in one model but wouldn’t be true in the other. To prove an old earth, you have to have evidence that is not equally well-explained on a six-day creation model. That means that anything that would naturally be skewed to show older age due to a mature-creation implication of the six-day model cannot be used as evidence against it, because it would equally be expected on the six-day model. We need evidence that would not be definitely or plausibly true if the world were created as described in Genesis.

Now, that seems like obvious, solid reasoning to me. Why, then, is it dismissed as using “appearance of age” to explain AWAY the physical evidence? I am not interested in explaining anything AWAY, I am just interested in exploring all the valid interpretations of the physical evidence and pointing out what you can and what you can’t legitimately prove from that evidence. However, if, when you begin to compare the two models–naturalistic uniformitarianism and six-day creationism–you start with the a priori assumption that nothing supernatural did or could have occurred, then you would naturaly see what I am doing as explaining away the physical evidence by means of a non-rational or non-objective (i.e. supernatural) personal belief. If, on the other hand, you start with the assumption that the biblical story, supernatural elements and all, at least might be objectively true and a reasonable objective position, you will see why the tree rings cannot be used (at least on their own) as evidence against six-day creationism and why I am not explaining anything away but raising a valid point. So I think Nick’s statement is a good example of arguing in a circle. I am only explaining away physical evidence IF you start with the assumption that my biblical views are wrong or unreasonable as objective truth claims, but this is precisely what is supposed to be proved. It is not logically valid to base one’s argument on one’s conclusion.

My educated guess as to the reason many of you do this is not that you are trying to argue in a circle, but that it is so ingrained in you to think in naturalistic or uniformitarian terms that you have trouble conceiving another way of looking at things. You are not fully aware of your own assumptions and how your philosophical beliefs about whether supernatural revelation can possibly constitute a part of the objective evidence influences your way of looking at the physical evidence. So you automatically assume I am explaining things away when I am actually providing an alternative possible reading of the physical evidence. Whether or not my reading is valid or plausible cannot be determined by the physical evidence itself but depends on the validity of my (and your) deeper philosophical (metaphysical, epistemological) beliefs. This is why our conversation began to get into the issue of the plausibility of the idea of biblical inerrancy, the existence of God, etc.

Now, I want to clear up a misrepresentation of my position that keeps being repeated. I have no intention whatsoever of ignoring any evidence against my position. It is entirely possible, in my opinion, that there should be physical evidence that can only be interpreted in terms of an old-earth model and that cannot be reasonably understood on a biblical model. If such evidence exists, it would create a real problem for my position. It would falsify my belief in biblical inerrancy. I have no intention of ignoring any such evidence. But you have to be self-aware and understand the difference between presenting evidence that truly contradicts my position and evidence that is only contradictory when you start by assuming I am wrong to begin with. The latter is not going to be persuasive to me, for reasons I explained above–and why should it be? The former would be persuasive and I would have no choice but to alter my views in response to it. Does that make sense?

OK, enough for now. Thanks!

Mark

By the way, just to cut off some of the inevitable accusations to the contrary, I have no intention of avoiding anyone’s claims or questions, although I am only one person with limited time and cannot answer everything everyone says. I intend to focus pretty much on major themes that seem particularly relevant rather than every little point (but if you point out a particualr comment as something you definitely want to me address, I will probably do so–but be explicit). I especially want to deal with Raging Bee’s comments about the Bible not being a science book, other interpretations of the Bible, etc., the next time I get a chance.

Thanks, Mark

Whether or not my reading is valid or plausible cannot be determined by the physical evidence itself but depends on the validity of my (and your) deeper philosophical (metaphysical, epistemological) beliefs.

This is just a fancy way of saying that facts don’t matter and everyone’s opinions are equally valid because that’s all they are. This is how grade-school kids duck out of a losing argument after their factual assertions have been shown to be wrong. It’s called “crybaby subjectivism.”

It also proves that you’re lying – or at least clueless – when you insist that your reasoning is “empirical.” Did you even look up the meaning of that word before you started using it here?

Since you’ve just said you’re arguing based on “deeper philosophical (metaphysical, epistemological) beliefs,” perhaps you’d like to respond to the points that I and others have made about the foundation for your beliefs: the assumption of Biblical “infallibility.” We’ve raised serious questions about that assumption, based on what the Bible itself says, and you have consistently failed to address them despite having been repeatedly reminded of them.

Raging Bee Wrote:

For starters, the Genesis stuff has been more conclusively disproven than the Resurrection.

Is this really true? Genesis is disproved based on astronomical, geological, paleontological, and other evidence. There is plenty of scientific evidence as well regarding resurrection. Due to irreversible physiological, biochemical, and other changes, it is impossible for a dead person or other organism to be brought back to life. I can’t see that science would look at all more favorably on one claim than the other, so I consider both disproved.

I agree that

Raging Bee Wrote:

drop the Resurrection story, and (at least for some people) the teachings would be a bit less potent

But here you are making exactly the same error made by creationists. In their minds, if biblical inerrancy is false, then the Bible as a whole is invalidated, and the whole structure of morality crumbles. They simply believe in things because they need them to be true. This is completely irrelevant to what is true. The resurrection story isn’t any more true just because it is needed to make Christ’s teachings more compelling. The world and the universe are the way they are, not the way we may wish them to be. We are still very far from complete knowledge of why things are the way they are. But the evidence is very strong if not overwhelming: both the Creation and the Resurrection did not in reality happen.

I know that a common thread in many of your posts is that religion teaches many valuable things, and you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I agree with you again, but how much better it would be if the Bible could simply be taken as another compilation of human ruminations on morality, to be critically examined just like any other. Then maybe we would be less persuaded by claims that we go to war to bestow God’s gift of freedom, and generalizing to other “good books”, scripture could not be cravenly cited to convince suicide bombers to blow up innocent people.

We need to jettison the whole idea that “Thou must do” uncritically, whatever, because “it is written”.

Sheesh! Only a pinhead could misspell his own name!

But that really was me.

And the error was not made (at least not consciously) in order to move one increment closer to the millenium…

Glen Davidson Wrote:

It’s sort of following an inverse relationship, after all, the less meaning, the more the words. So the least we should be able to expect from Mark is a plethora of words to hide the fact that all he has is, “God said it, and I believe, and that settles it for me.” And no reason anyone should believe that God said it, etc.

Not surprising to any of us who have read these kinds of “rationalizations” by some of the main Creationism/ID writers, but it sure gives a clear picture of what would be going on in a biology classroom if these fanatics somehow got the idea that they were entitled to take over the classroom discussions.

Not to long ago, in a nearby public school district, two elementary school teachers were surreptitiously teaching creationism to their students. After they were discovered and ordered to stop, the school district was threatened with a lawsuit by the Thomas Moore Law Center. The dispute occupied a considerable amount of the School Board’s time, and other items had to be put on the back burner until the threat passed.

Nick Matzke offered Mark a forum (apparently thinking that Mark really wanted to discuss issues), but Mark took it as an entitlement to preach and give his “personal testimony” while attempting to avoid displaying his extreme ignorance of science and scientific evidence.

I think what we have seen here is a microcosm of what would happen if these extreme fundamentalists were “welcomed” into the science classrooms in the public schools. Their participation would become a quagmire of evasions, “personal witnessing” and preaching, and there would be no time left to discuss real science.

What is ironic is that these people live in a society that protects their right to worship as they please, yet they claim they are being persecuted and are under threat of annihilation because their attempts to force their doctrines onto others are resisted and rebuffed. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if this is extreme stupidity or malicious deceit.

One more small step to 1000.

Mike Elzinga Wrote:

Sometimes it is difficult to determine if this is extreme stupidity or malicious deceit.

I find it hard to believe that anyone could be capabale of malicious deceit and yet be able to give us the pathetic spectacle that Mark has provided. On the other hand, I don’t think he’s stupid - it seems to be a case of almost pathological self-delusion. Almost as if the normal thinking processes have been re-wired so as to bypass whatever mental circuits assess whether an idea is rational or not. In a sense Mike is talking into a speaking trumpet with the cone clamped firmly over his ear.

Robert King Wrote:

In a sense Mike [sic] is talking into a speaking trumpet with the cone clamped firmly over his ear.

Sometimes I’ve caught myself with my trumpet source stuck in other orifices also. ;-) Fortunately few gaffs have been enough to lead to course corrections. Ain’t science great!?

Mike Elzinga Wrote:

Fortunately few [sic] gaffs [sic] have been enough to lead to course corrections.

Well, how about those gaffes? And it should have been “Fortunately a few…”. In my case it hasn’t taken many. Feedback was instantaneous and blunt. And much appreciated.

Mark, you keep arguing variations of this theme…

My thoughts seem “fanciful” to you because you come to the question with the assumption that there is no good reason to believe the Bible, any more than there is to believe the old Greek myths. I come to the question believing I have good reason to take the Bible seriously as providing a true, reliable, infallible eyewitness account of creation.

But you still don’t get it.

You think that somehow we (science) has made this choice about what book to believe in, Darwin or pick the Bible, ad if we’re picking which church to go to.

Science does no such thing.

Science is professionally inclined to disbelieve all claimants to the truth until they prove their case.

It’s not that evolution gets a free pass, it has to prove it’s case just like King James. The thing is that once you start measuring things and examining the evidence evolution quickly runs the table, as it has done for 150 years.

The Bible, um, doesn’t.

Never did, but it’s only recently that people noticed that.

(Or, more accurately, that they could actually mention that they noticed that without being burned at the stake or something equally gruesome)

What I am saying is that the Bible description of things matches my observations.

Yes, it does.

And you know what? It matches my observations, too. Especially the parts where we live on an unmoving, flat Earth, around which the sun and stars revolve every 24 hours.

The problem is, that when I start actually measuring things with tools unavailable to bronze-age shepherds, I find out that the Bible and my observations tell me things that are factually incorrect. And then I have a decision to make.

The problem isn’t that you believe the Bible and disbelieve Origin of Species, it’s that you will allow yourself to blindly believe anything that is clearly contradicted by direct measurement and can offer no plausible reason as to why.

Soon.

Eric Finn:

Eric Finn Wrote:

I need to have a look, if monitoring could be incorporated without too much damage. Have you got any ideas how to proceed?

What am I, a god? :-P

Dunno. You would need to identify the interesting spacetime volume, if you don’t run the physics wholesale which we aren’t modeling.

Maybe you want to sample photons by snatching them randomly. But doing so wholesale would in effect affect the QFT for EM, wouldn’t it?

It isn’t easy being a god!

Eric Finn Wrote:

Do not underestimate the goal for having teeth!

I’ll bite: Good points!

Eric Finn Wrote:

maybe I should try to have a closer look at the model professor Behe is offering.

This will no doubt become famous last words.

Mike

Sorry, of course I meant Mark in the trumpet analogy. Two more posts to go!

Are we there yet…?

As a casual lurker for 2 years, I am finally inspired to post.

I do have to say that i reading this thread, Mark’s posts push me farther from religion than anything else I have ever read.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on May 31, 2007 6:46 PM.

Evolution for Everyone: A Review was the previous entry in this blog.

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