Evangelicals talking sense to creationists

| 84 Comments

Yesterday, I received a letter and a booklet from an organization called Day Star Research. The booklet was written by the president of Day Star, Fred Heeren, who writes, among other things,

Day Star Research is committed to

* Promoting healthy dialogue between the religious and non-religious.

* Fighting irrational extremism with rationality.…

* Encouraging Christians to reverse their reputation for anti-intellectualism, insensitivity, and judgmentalism.…

Heeren goes on to explain that his “work on science news stories” has acquainted him with the work of cosmologists, paleontologists, and biologists, and helped him “see the way their discoveries are misunderstood by those who view them as a threat to their faith [my italics].” Heeren says he was “grounded” in young-earth creationism and later in intelligent-design creationism, clearly implying that he has given up those beliefs. He has

learned something from [his] conservative Christian friends who are skeptical about evolution or big bang cosmology: we need to not only convince them of their validity. We need to show them how we know what we know: we need to tell them the true stories of how the discoveries were made and connect the evidence with the conclusions [italics in original].

A few more quotations:

Once Christians learn that their Bible is not a science book, they can become less defensive and more open to what science reveals.

***

We want to show that becoming a Christian does not mean that we must buy into some agenda-driven, dishonest, Christianized brand of science. And we want to show Christians that they need not be afraid of the evidence—we can let it lead us where it will.

***

The movement called “Intelligent Design,” as Eugenie Scott [!] points out, is both bad science and bad theology.

Heeren has evidently come a long way in the last few years. Reports of the National Center for Science Education characterized him thus in its September-October 2000 issue:

It is perhaps inevitable that those motivated by a nonscientific agenda will seek to extract snippets and sound bites from the scientific arguments, package them out of context, and feed them to the general public. This is what Fred Heeren did. Heeren is an anti-evolutionist writer who attended the Chengjiang meeting and then peddled his distorted version of the Cambrian radiation to the popular media, with obvious success.

No longer is Heeren “an anti-evolutionist writer,” but he is still an evangelical, and I found the last part of the booklet disappointing. First, Heeren notes,

There are really only two steps between an atheist and me. Once we take the first step to recognize the purpose this universe clearly displays [my italics], then the next step we can take, the one I’ve taken, is to commit ourselves to the best [italics in original] we can find to explain that purpose.…

The best, of course, is Christianity, for a variety of simplistic and very debatable reasons.

Heeren talks of “a different kind of evangelism and a different kind of evangelistic organization, recognizing the importance of being peacemakers, of educating polarized groups so that they might stop talking past each other, and ending the Christian war on science and culture.” The last pages of the booklet, perhaps not surprisingly, invite you to make a tax-deductible contribution—not to explain evolution to Christians, but to help “reach skeptics with the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Impressed though I am with Heeren’s conversion, I suddenly felt underwhelmed.

84 Comments

Is there any way you can redirect all future posts by the usual wall crowd to his website? That would probably be better for all concerned.

It is up to Christians what counts as Christianity. While I welcome efforts from within to promote its more sensible variants, I don’t see a way to get there by explaining to the less sensible why they are wrong as Christians.

Heeren has evidently come a long way in the last few years.

That’s the first thing that came to mind as I read your essay. I remember reading Heeren’s book Show Me God years ago and was impressed by it. But things have Times sure have changed.

Sorry to see that Daniel Dennett’s “Universal Acid” has eaten its way into Heeren’s beliefs. You are correct to call it a “conversion.” A negative conversion.

But at least Heeren hasn’t abandoned Christianity, although Heeren’s phrase “The Bible isn’t a science book” really means “The Bible isn’t a history book”.

Which means that Heeren’s belief in Christianity itself could (at least in theory) be corroded and dissolved someday, on the very same basis as Heeren’s now-dissolved beliefs in Genesis and Intelligent Design.

FL

FL said: … Heeren’s phrase “The Bible isn’t a science book” really means “The Bible isn’t a history book”.

Both quotes are, of course, true.

I hope Heeren is aware of this (very long - apologies) quotation from St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), who was obviously addressing FL as well as PT’s other resident creationists, along with Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, Kent Hovind and the entire ID crowd.

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience.

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.

For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

…I don’t see a way to get there by explaining to the less sensible why they are wrong as Christians.

Please excuse me if I implied that Heeren said they were wrong “as Christians”; I do not even know what that phrase means. People whose views are factually wrong are wrong, period, not wrong “as” anything.

Heeren will do creationists a service if he helps them understand science, and he has a better chance than perhaps anyone else, because he is himself an evangelical. One of the reasons I was “underwhelmed,” frankly, was that the appeal for funds did not support the thrust of the booklet – acquainting creationists with modern science – but was directed toward converting unbelievers.

That is indeed a famous quotation from St Augustine, who also wrote that the Earth was less than 6000 years old (and he also believed in a literal global Flood.)

Whether the end is disappointing or not, I’m glad it’s obvious to at least some evangelicals that they’re never going to reach any science-minded folk with anti-science BS.

So on the whole I’m only too happy to see Heeren making as much sense as he does. It’s simply amazing to see IDiots essentially attacking our very ability to know anything as if that is the way to doing “real science.” Christianity really has traditionally been in favor of intellectual honesty, which is why, despite the Galileo affair (and not much other opposition to science–at least for mainstream Christianity), it has been reasonably accepting of science. The present hostility to science of too much US Christianity seems to be losing adherents at this time.

I laugh at UD’s attacks on the “warfare thesis” of Christianity vs. science. While it is overdone in many cases, that the present embodiment of the theistic war against science, ID/creationism, would be denying the “warfare thesis” is the height of irony.

Glen Davidson

Lying Asshole for Jesus lied:

That is indeed a famous quotation from St Augustine, who also wrote that the Earth was less than 6000 years old (and he also believed in a literal global Flood.)

So, where and when did Saint Augustine said that Christians are obligated to believe that God magically poofed the Earth, all of its inhabitants and the rest of the Universe in less than 6,000 years ago, against all evidence to the contrary and under pain of eternal participation in your gay rape cannibalism fantasy, FL?

Then why quote Augustine at all, Stanton? Hm?

Fred Heeren published an earlier book:

Show Me God: What the Message from Space Is Telling Us About God

The publication date for the second revised edition is 2004. The first edition was 1996.

I am sorry, but I will send further bickering between apokryltaros and FL straight to the BW (and I would be grateful if in the future apokryltaros were a little more judicious in his choice of epithets).

Glen Davidson …despite the Galileo affair (and not much other opposition to science–at least for mainstream Christianity), it has been reasonably accepting of science.

Riiight…Giordano Bruno tripped and accidently fell into the fire whilst attending a weenie roast sponsored by the Inquisition.

Paul Burnett said:

Glen Davidson …despite the Galileo affair (and not much other opposition to science–at least for mainstream Christianity), it has been reasonably accepting of science.

Riiight…Giordano Bruno tripped and accidently fell into the fire whilst attending a weenie roast sponsored by the Inquisition.

Well, geez, I guess that changes everything. Yuh huh, never heard that name before, couldn’t have brought him up and blathered about the various issues involved with Bruno, hardly only a matter of science (not that anything excuses the persecution of Bruno, it’s just that the persecution wasn’t all about science).

Actually, if I really wanted to bring up other opposition to science I’d be more likely to bring up the RC’s initial opposition to evolutionary theory, not the hoary old heretic Bruno. But I wasn’t writing absolutely like some misrepresenting jerk pretended I was, so I wasn’t going to go into specifics. Unsurprisingly, it’s nevertheless misrepresented, and with a thoroughly complex example–which isn’t acknowledged by the misrepresenting one.

Glen Davidson

I especially like the scientific approach the Catholic church takes to the investigation of miracles. Apparently they are able to rule out any natural cause for a purported miracle.

I sure wish they’d say how they manage that.

And when they have managed it, I’d like to know how they can tell that gods were at work. The whole business looks to me like an elaborate publicity scam based on the god-of-the-gaps fallacy.

When Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) was burned at the stake as a heretic, it had nothing to do with his writings in support of Copernican cosmology, and this is clearly shown in Finocchiaro’s reconstruction of the accusations against Bruno (see also Blumenberg’s part 3, chapter 5, titled “Not a Martyr for Copernicanism: Giordano Bruno”).

says the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Seems a tad absolutist–how can anyone be sure of all of the motives?–but certainly counter to common but ignorant knee-jerk assumptions.

Glen Davidson

Matt Young said:

I am sorry, but I will send further bickering between apokryltaros and FL straight to the BW (and I would be grateful if in the future apokryltaros were a little more judicious in his choice of epithets).

Fink, has done some stuff. He could just ignore them, on the main posts, and instead reply to them on the BW. He could also be a bit more polite.

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?) I have ordered their booklet.

FL said:

That is indeed a famous quotation from St Augustine, who also wrote that the Earth was less than 6000 years old (and he also believed in a literal global Flood.)

The concept, that the world was 6,000 years old, originated in the 17th century. Also, he rejected the concept of the 6 day concept, believing rather, that God just poofed it into existence. I have a bachelors in history.

Karen S. said:

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?) I have ordered their booklet.

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?) I have ordered their booklet.

Good luck. The dealings I have had with otherwise intelligent human beings resulted in a “this is a conspiracy to hide the truth” sort of argument, or “I don’t think that a background in the relevant science is necessary to understanding this” variety. Clinging to Walt Brown in the face of extensive evidence that the earth is very, very old.

Please excuse me if I implied that Heeren said they were wrong “as Christians”; I do not even know what that phrase means. People whose views are factually wrong are wrong, period, not wrong “as” anything.

In the quest for concise statement, I was probably unclear. To unpack: most of organized religion, including mainstream Christianity, does not reject science. Most organized religions put a theological spin on science that doesn’t make sense to the non-religious, but there’s no reason to get into that; what we’d like to see is religions that do not reject science. But if Christianity as you understand it requires rejection of science, other Christians who try to bring you around are necessarily saying that you are wrong about what Christianity requires you to believe. So not only are you wrong about science, you are wrong about your own religion. You are wrong as a scientist and wrong as a Christian. I don’t see how to make that sale.

lkeithlu said:

Karen S. said:

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?) I have ordered their booklet.

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?) I have ordered their booklet.

Good luck. The dealings I have had with otherwise intelligent human beings resulted in a “this is a conspiracy to hide the truth” sort of argument, or “I don’t think that a background in the relevant science is necessary to understanding this” variety. Clinging to Walt Brown in the face of extensive evidence that the earth is very, very old.

This is just my hypothesis but it helps me to predict things pretty accurately…

Post-modern creationism isn’t “religious” per se.

It’s a backlash against liberal trends in religion during the civil rights era. (Note - lest there be confusion, I am not personally religious.)

If you want to use religion to justify things like discrimination against people who aren’t doing anything wrong, just for their color, gender, or sexual orientation, you can’t allow flexibility of interpretation. The Bible simply has a mixed record. It has “slay all the Whatever-ites” but also “good Samaritans”. It has “woman shall obey” stuff but also numerous strong independent positive female characters, some of whom are stated or strongly implied to be anything but chaste. (I realize this simple factual statement may offend some for not seeming to “condemn all religion strongly enough”, but it’s simply a fact.) If you allow flexibility of interpretation, more humane interpretations will arise.

The purely symbolic myths of Genesis don’t attempt to be scientific. It’s unlikely that the idea of taking them excessively “literally” ever occurred to anyone until the recent past. Bishop Ussher was fully aware that the earth was round, for example. He lived after the globe had been circumnavigated, but educated medieval people also knew that the earth was round, and frequently referred to it as the “orb” or in similar language.

The “every word is literally true” nonsense is merely a scheme to justify bad behavior, by finding some unpleasant passage that seems to do so, and insisting that it is literally true. Never mind all the passages that contradict it.

I’m not saying that creationists don’t believe their stuff “sincerely”. They do, in a sense. North Koreans sincerely believe in the benevolence and wisdom of “Dear Leader”, too. Both groups belong to a unifying ideology, and they have somewhat uncomfortably but rigidly internalized the tenets of that ideology. However, the ideology has its roots in self-serving political games.

EvoDevo said:

FL said:

That is indeed a famous quotation from St Augustine, who also wrote that the Earth was less than 6000 years old (and he also believed in a literal global Flood.)

The concept, that the world was 6,000 years old, originated in the 17th century. Also, he rejected the concept of the 6 day concept, believing rather, that God just poofed it into existence. I have a bachelors in history.

I.e., with Bishop Ussher’s biblical calculations.

Plus, then there is the problem of how Saint Augustine never advocated blind, slavish devotion to portions of the Bible that directly contradict observed reality. If Saint Augustine did advocate this, as FL falsely implies, then why would Augustine directly warn against such behavior in the first place?

Creationism is religious in the sense of Dennett’s definition:

[Religion is] a social system whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought.

harold said:

lkeithlu said:

Karen S. said:

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?) I have ordered their booklet.

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?) I have ordered their booklet.

Good luck. The dealings I have had with otherwise intelligent human beings resulted in a “this is a conspiracy to hide the truth” sort of argument, or “I don’t think that a background in the relevant science is necessary to understanding this” variety. Clinging to Walt Brown in the face of extensive evidence that the earth is very, very old.

This is just my hypothesis but it helps me to predict things pretty accurately…

Post-modern creationism isn’t “religious” per se.

It’s a backlash against liberal trends in religion during the civil rights era. (Note - lest there be confusion, I am not personally religious.)

If you want to use religion to justify things like discrimination against people who aren’t doing anything wrong, just for their color, gender, or sexual orientation, you can’t allow flexibility of interpretation. The Bible simply has a mixed record. It has “slay all the Whatever-ites” but also “good Samaritans”. It has “woman shall obey” stuff but also numerous strong independent positive female characters, some of whom are stated or strongly implied to be anything but chaste. (I realize this simple factual statement may offend some for not seeming to “condemn all religion strongly enough”, but it’s simply a fact.) If you allow flexibility of interpretation, more humane interpretations will arise.

The purely symbolic myths of Genesis don’t attempt to be scientific. It’s unlikely that the idea of taking them excessively “literally” ever occurred to anyone until the recent past. Bishop Ussher was fully aware that the earth was round, for example. He lived after the globe had been circumnavigated, but educated medieval people also knew that the earth was round, and frequently referred to it as the “orb” or in similar language.

The “every word is literally true” nonsense is merely a scheme to justify bad behavior, by finding some unpleasant passage that seems to do so, and insisting that it is literally true. Never mind all the passages that contradict it.

I’m not saying that creationists don’t believe their stuff “sincerely”. They do, in a sense. North Koreans sincerely believe in the benevolence and wisdom of “Dear Leader”, too. Both groups belong to a unifying ideology, and they have somewhat uncomfortably but rigidly internalized the tenets of that ideology. However, the ideology has its roots in self-serving political games.

FL said:

That is indeed a famous quotation from St Augustine, who also wrote that the Earth was less than 6000 years old (and he also believed in a literal global Flood.)

I would like you to present references to Augustine describing his belief in a 6,000 year old Earth and a global flood.

In De Genesi ad Litteram Augustine states many times that when the Bible says “God created man” it meant that God set in motion processes which would produce man “when the time came”. Catholic theologians have acknowledged that, right or wrong, this is compatible with evolution.

On the other hand, creationists often assert that Augustine believed the “Earth” was created 6,000 years ago. I forget their exact references– but if I recall, Augustine actually said that human history went back 6,000 years (matching Biblical genealogies) which is not the same as saying that the Earth or the life on it is 6,000 years old.

If anyone has a reference for that, and Augustine’s alleged belief in a global Flood, I’d like to see it. Like “Louis Pasteur the YEC”, this may be another creationist myth.

In the quest for concise statement, I was probably unclear. To unpack: most of organized religion, including mainstream Christianity, does not reject science. Most organized religions put a theological spin on science that doesn’t make sense to the non-religious, but there’s no reason to get into that; what we’d like to see is religions that do not reject science. But if Christianity as you understand it requires rejection of science, other Christians who try to bring you around are necessarily saying that you are wrong about what Christianity requires you to believe. So not only are you wrong about science, you are wrong about your own religion. You are wrong as a scientist and wrong as a Christian. I don’t see how to make that sale.

Thanks, now I see what you mean. And it is a hard sell indeed! But no one is more qualified to make it than Heeren; if he can get people accept science and not push their nonsense into the schools, then we do not care what else they believe. No one says you have to give up religion if you give up creationism.

As for Fred Heeren, in 2000 he wrote a deeply deceptive [intentionally or not] article on the Cambrian explosion and [then] recent fossil finds in China. This was published in the Boston Globe, with no indication that it was written by a creationist, although the creationist language and argumentation is obvious [to us]. I have had creationists cite Heeren’s article to me as a way of proving that all phyla make their first appearance in the blink of an eye in the Cambrian– blah blah blah– without them mentioning that the author is a creationist, presenting the article as “secular.” Sneaky.

This article had the usual creationist talking points:

Fred Heeren wrote:

According to [Chinese paleontologist Jun-Yuan] Chen, the conventional forces of evolution can’t account for the speed, the breadth, and one-time nature of “the Cambrian explosion,” a geologic moment more than 500 million years ago when virtually all the major animal groups first appear in the fossil record.

How many errors can you find?

“Neo-Darwinism is dead,” said Eric Davidson, a geneticist and textbook writer at the California Institute of Technology. He joined a recent [as of 2000] gathering of 60 scientists from around the world near Chengjiang, where Chen had found his first fishlike impressions of Haikouella five years ago.

Heeren does not tell us it was an Intelligent Design conference.

Virtually all of today’s living phyla — or major animal groups — make their first impressions in the geologic period known as the Cambrian.

Bullshit. It may take us 50 years to correct this creationist myth-making.

Because new animal groups did not continue to appear after the Cambrian explosion 530 millions years ago he [Chen] believes that a unique kind of evolution was going on in Cambrian seas.

Bullshit. So much for bryozoans and platyhelminthes. And vascular plants count for nothing, as usual.

Today, paleontologists still lack viable ancestors for the Cambrian’s forty or more animal phyla.

Bullshit. Tell that to Graham Budd et al. All that work on lobopods and Halkieriids etc. flushed down the drain. Unacceptable, even in 2000.

Heeren’s article is based on multiple accusations that Western scientists are brain-washed into believing “neo-Darwinism” and are too closed-minded to question the orthodoxy even though the facts disprove it. This is a deeply dishonest narrative, despicable actually, and Heeren supports it with no evidence.

He portrays the West as abnormal, an aberration, in that its scientists believe in “neo-Darwinism”, whereas China is portrayed as a Utopia of enlightenment– the normal state of human beings– because Chinese scientists supposedly have rejected evolution.

The debate over [early Cambrian chordate] Haikouella casts Western scientists in the unlikely role of defending themselves against charges of ideological blindness from scientists in communist China. Chinese officials argue that the theory of evolution is so politically charged in the West that researchers are reluctant to admit shortcomings for fear of giving comfort to those who believe in a biblical creation… The idea that neo-Darwinism is missing something fundamental about evolution is as scandalous to Americans as it is basic to the Chinese.

…[There is] a great divide between Chen, [Chia-Wei] Li and the Chinese media on one side and the mainstream Western view, in which scientists are reluctant to admit that the Cambrian explosion poses a difficult challenge.

Bullshit. Very few Chinese are quoted by Heeren making this accusation.

Moreover, the idea that “Chinese officials” are presented as exemplars of honesty and open-mindedness would be considered laughable to most Chinese. [Full disclosure: I have family members who are Chinese officials.]

You will recognize this as a very old creationist story– the idea that scientists believing in evolution is an abnormal state, just temporary, and aberration; whereas there is some other country, far away, across the sea, that is a Utopia of enlightenment, where the scientists embrace the theory that stuff happens by magic.

Before WWI, creationists portrayed Germany as the Utopia of enlightenment and anti-Darwinism. (After WWI, English-speaking creationists changed the story and portrayed Germany as the dystopia of pro-Darwinism.) Even in the movie Expelled, we are told that Poland [!] is a land of enlightenment where scientists are free and, thus, don’t believe in evolution. The Discovery Institute has portrayed Turkey as a land of freedom because of the pro-creationist efforts of sex cult leader Harun Yahya. Here, we see Heeren portraying China as the “normal state”, the enlightened culture where scientists embrace magicalism as science.

Because this story is about paleontologist Jun-Yuan Chen, I asked my wife to email him and ask him if he really believes evolutionary theory cannot explain the Cambrian explosion. She received a reply and he said that is not what he really believes.

That deceptive, sneaky article was written 13 years ago. I’m willing to give Heeren a second chance. But it will take us many years to undo the damage done by myths like this.

FL said:

Heeren has evidently come a long way in the last few years.

Which means that Heeren’s belief in Christianity itself could (at least in theory) be corroded and dissolved someday, on the very same basis as Heeren’s now-dissolved beliefs in Genesis and Intelligent Design.

FL

That would not necessarily be a bad thing.

FL said:

That is indeed a famous quotation from St Augustine, who also wrote that the Earth was less than 6000 years old (and he also believed in a literal global Flood.)

Apparently, St. Augustine was wrong on both counts - just like you. That is, if St. Augustine wrote any such thing. References?

So Diogenes and Keelyn have asked for St. Augie references. Which is okay, that’s legitimate, no problemo.

In this first snippet, Augustine directly claims that the Earth is less that 6000 years old.

They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.

– City of God, book 12 chapter 10

****

In this next snippet, Augie defends the literalness of the global Noahic Flood against detractors who want to de-literalize it and claim it never happened in actual history.

But they who contend that these things (the global Noahic Flood) never happened, but are only figures setting forth other things, in the first place suppose that there could not be a flood so great that the water should rise fifteen cubits above the highest mountains, because it is said that clouds cannot rise above the top of Mount Olympus, because it reaches the sky where there is none of that thicker atmosphere in which winds, clouds, and rains have their origin. They do not reflect that the densest element of all, earth, can exist there; or perhaps they deny that the top of the mountain is earth. Why, then, do these measurers and weighers of the elements contend that earth can be raised to those aerial altitudes, and that water cannot, while they admit that water is lighter, and liker to ascend than earth? What reason do they adduce why earth, the heavier and lower element, has for so many ages scaled to the tranquil ether, while water, the lighter, and more likely to ascend, is not suffered to do the same even for a brief space of time?

– City of God, book 15 chapter 27

****

So there you have it. St. Augustine believed in a literal YEC young-earth of less than 6000 years, and he also believed that the global Noahic Flood was literal as described in Genesis.

****

Side note for EvoDevo: You are correct that St. Augie believed everything was created instantly, but that belief automatically results in an Earth that’s less than 6000 years old, just the same as a regular YEC six-day belief. So St. Augie remains a YEC after all.

But notice one more thing: Augie said “reckoning by the sacred writings” regarding how he actually came up with the ‘less than 6000’ figure.

So it would NOT be true that “The concept, that the world was 6,000 years old, originated in the 17th century.” St. Augie clearly specified the concept a lot earlier than the 17th century!

FL

Looking quickly on the internet, I was able to find a search only copy of Russell’s book on Google Books, which led me to the portion of the note you cite that pertains to Eusebius. He says there: “Eusebius… (Preap. Evg. 15:56-57) sorts through the opinions of the philosophers and seems to opt for roundness.” This indeed seems to distort what Eusebius says. He quotes the diversity of opinions held by various Presocratics, including options for a sphere and a flat earth, but gives no hint of his own view. Reading more widely, his purpose in the chapter, as throughout, is to point out that Greeks disagree with each other and therefore can’t be taken as authorities, supporting his general idea that once any field of Greek learning is disposed of in this way, the aspiring bureaucrats in his audience will have no choice but to accept the authority of the Bible on the matter. But he doesn’t give any hint of himself favoring one shape of the earth over the other, probably for the very good reason that if he did he would have to prove his own position and not just mock his opponents. So your interpretation doesn’t seem to come anywhere closer to the truth than Russell’s–unless you have an additional citation?

diogeneslamp0 said:

Helena Constantine said:

Indeed he was, as I believe I’ve mentioned here before.

TomS said:

Helena Constantine said: (it is attested in Lactantius and Eusebius as well)

I would note that Lactantius is one of the few people who believed (on Biblical grounds) that the Earth is flat.

No, Lactantius was not “one of the few”. The majority of fathers of the Church, who made cosmological statements, described the Earth as flat or implied it as such. Everyone in the Antiochan school of theology was explicitly a Flat Earther; Cosmas Indicopleustes’ book resulted from that tradition.

Among Doctors of the Church the Flat Earthers would include Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius of Alexandria, Ephrem the Syrian [basically everyone in the Antiochan school of theology], Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom, and St. Jerome.

Other Church fathers or theologians who were Flat Earthers include Theophilus of Antioch, Methodius of Olympus, Lactantius [as already mentioned], Eusebius of Caesarea, Diodorus of Tarsus, Epiphanius of Salamis, Severian of Gebala, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Narsai of Nisibis, and Jacob of Serugh. Cosmas Indicopleustes is also notorious but was not a theologian.

Augustine was officially agnostic, although he knew the pagans had good evidentiary arguments for a round earth, he said that it could never be proven– “The jury is still out” as our modern politicians say. Basil of Caesarea and St. Ambrose of Milan, and John of Damascus were more agnostic than Augustine.

Round Earthers include Athenagoras of Athens [the first Christian Round Earther], Isidore of Seville, Bede, maybe Tertullian, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Philoponus.

There are others who make ambiguous statements with multiple interpretations, and of course many theologians who SFAIK didn’t make cosmological statements.

Anyway the Flat Earthers outnumber the Round Earthers up until, say, the 8th century.

This fellow Jeffrey Burton Russell wrote a book Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians which says that liberals invented the myth that Christians believed in a Flat Earth, that the fact that they invented this myth proves liberals can’t be trusted [that really is his argument], and that belief in divine revelation [he means the divine inspiration of the Bible] is perfectly rational and liberals are bigots for not considering “The Bible says so” as a rational and valid epistemology [he really does argue that]. And the reason why we know liberals can’t be trusted his because they said Christians were Flat Earthers, but he, Russell, proved that Christians were Round Earthers, which proves liberals can’t be trusted, and therefore, it’s quite rational to believe Bible stories and miracles. That really is his argument.

Whenever you see creationists saying, “Waah, Christians have been falsely accused of being Round Earthers, waah it’s not fair,” they always cite Jeffrey Burton Russell as their authority.

He’s wrong– I looked up his references. His whole “Christians were all Round Earthers” argument is based on his footnote 63 on page 89. Look up his references– he’s wrong.

Never let a creationist wave Jeffrey Burton Russell at you. Count them up; the Flat Earthers outnumber the Round Earthers.

I suggest the Wikipedia article Myth of the Flat Earth

Reading more widely, his purpose in the chapter, as throughout, is to point out that Greeks disagree with each other and therefore can’t be taken as authorities, supporting his general idea that once any field of Greek learning is disposed of in this way, the aspiring bureaucrats in his audience will have no choice but to accept the authority of the Bible on the matter.

It seems remarkable how frequently this thought pattern occurs among religious and political authoritarians -

“If there is anything wrong with any of my critics, I win by default. I don’t have to defend or justify my own claims, I only have to attack the other person.”

It’s a constant among creationists. Virtually all ID/creationist arguments are either defensive claims denying some obvious scientific finding, attacks on straw man versions of scientific ideas, or false claims that acknowledging scientific reality will lead to some kind of bad human behavior. Actual positive evidence for ID/creationism appears to be considered superfluous.

ID/creationism in its current form is almost certainly best understood as originating as a post-modern backlash against religious support for civil rights and other “liberal” ideas during the Vatican II/Civil Rights era, mixed with resentment of the high popularity of science during the Sputnik to Apollo period. Its advocates generally don’t know who Bishop Ussher was, let alone Athanasius of Alexandria. However, at the same time, parallels with similar movements throughout history are obvious.

harold said: Actual positive evidence for ID/creationism appears to be considered superfluous.

I would note that it’s not just a lack of evidence.

There is very little in the way of a positive, substantive description.

Yes, Young Earth Creationism does tell us when it happened, a few thousand years ago.

And several other varieties tell us who did it.

And I guess that Omphalism is the most detailed of all, telling us that all things came into existence just like they are today, with all of the appearances of a prior history.

But Intelligent Design tries to distance itself from any specification of what happened, when, where, why, or how or anything about the agent(s) responsible for it.

None of them will tell us, for example, what sorts of things did not, would not, or could not result from creation/design. Or what powers or features or wishes or limitations of the creator/designer(s) led to things being as they are, or what things were like before the creation/design took place. Why was the human body created/designed to be most like the bodies of chimps and other apes (among all the forms that life takes today): Did the creator/designers want humans to serve similar purposes as chimps, or were there some laws of nature that restricted what the creator/designers were able to do, or was it just some massive coincidence?

As far as I know, no one has ever even speculated on any account for things falling into a “nested hierarchy” like the “tree of life’s taxonomy” which does not involve “descent with modification”, much less given any evidence for such an alternative. Not, for example, with the much simpler tree for Indo-European languages.

Helena Constantine said:

diogeneslamp0 said:

By the way, does anybody here read Latin? I have a passage from St. Jerome I’d like somebody to translate, re: flatness of the Earth.

Possum in linguam Latinam Legare. Quae verba?

I’d very much like to see it actually. I only know Russell from his work on witchcraft, but I would very surprised to see texts that indicate Athansisus or Eusebius were flat earthers. Do you have the reference for those two to hand?

St. Jerome of course is the translator of the Vulgate.

Below is his commentary on Isaiah 40:21-26, which includes the oft-quoted verse 22, “He [God] sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like locusts.” I copied this from a French edition printed in Germany with text in Latin.

If you find any obvious errors in my transcription, let me know. Also compare this to Robert J. Schneider’s partial translation below– there are very small differences.

St. Jerome wrote:

Vulgage 40:22: Qui sedet super gyrum terrae, et habitatores eius quasi locustae, qui extendit velut nihil caelos et expandit eos sicut tabernaculum ad inhabitandum, (23) qui dat secretorum scrutatores quasi non sint, iudices terrae velut inane fecit.

LXX [Septuagint]: Nonne scietis? Nonne Audietis? Non adnuntiatum est vobis a principio? Non cognovistis fundamenta terrae? Qui tenet gyrum terrae et habitatores eius quasi locustas, qui statuit quasi camaram caelum et extendit quasi tabernaculum ad habitandum, qui dat principes regnare pro nihili, terram autem quasi nihili fecit.

…Ab initio, inquit, naturali lege uos docui, et postea per Moysen scripta lege testatus sum quod nihil essent idola, et quod creator mundi ipse esset deus, qui tantam molem terrae fundasset super maria et super flumina collocasset eam, ut elementum grauissimum super tenues aquas Dei penderet arbitrio, qui instar regis sedet super gyrum terrae – ex quo nonnulli quasi punctum et globum [eam] esse contendunt, - et habitatores illius quasi locustas; si enim in toto orbe consideremus uarias nations, et ab oceano usque ad oceanum, id est ab Indico mari usque ad Brittanicum, et ab Atlantico usque ad septentrionis rigorem, in quo congelascunt aquae, et sucina pulchra concrescunt, omne in medio hominum genus quasi locustas habitare cernimus. Quid igitur superbit terra et cinis? Quia si caelum, immo, ut scripturarum utamur auctoritate, caeli extenduntur quasi camara siue, ut in hebraico continetur, quasi DOC, de quo supra diximus, – pro quo LXX ibi saliuam interpretati sunt et unum uerbum nunc sputum, nunc camarum, id est fornicem, transtulerunt, – et tantam eorum latitudinem quasi tabernaculum et papilionem extendit desuper, ut in similitudinem tecti operiret homines et quasi in domo latissima habitare faceret, quid miremur si parua hominum corpora quasi locustae et minuta reputentur animantia? Rursum et in hoc loco qui HMIKYKΛIΩN terris imminere caelorum et in similitudinem sphaerae caelum esse contendunt, abutuntur nomine fornicis, quod scilicet media pars sphaerae terras operiat, cum in hebraico non fornicem, sed DOC, id est tenuissimum puluerem legerimus. Pro quo saliua quae proicitur in terram et pulueri commiscetur et deperit, ostendit uniuersam corporum magnitudinem pro nihili reputandam.

[p.1257-9]: Qui autem extendit caelos et expandit eos, ut uel supra habitarent angelorum mutlitudines, uel subter homines morarentur, et quasi magnam rationabilibus creaturis fecit domum, ipse pro qualitate temporum principes constituit siue secretorum scrutatores, ut sint quasi non sint, et IUDICES TERRAE VELUT INANE FECIT. Pro quo LXX transtulerunt: TERRAM AUTEM QUASI NIHILI FECIT; siquidem et in principio Geneseos, ubi scriptum est: “Terra autem erat inane et nihili.” Quantos reges et graeca et Barbara romanaque narrat historia! Ubi est Xerxis innumerabilis ille exercitus? Ubi israelitica in eremo multitudo? Ubi regum incredibilis potential? Quid de ueteribus loquar? Praesentia exempla nos doceant esse principes quasi nihili, et iudices terrae quasi inane reputari. Qui principes et iudices terrae siue, ut alii suspicantur, caeli, nec sati sunt, nec plantati, nec firma radice solidati, et repente iussione dei ita auferuntur, et pereunt quasi stipula turbine et tempestate raptetur, iuxta illud quod scriptum est: Et transiui, et non erat, et quaesiui eum, et non est inuentus locus eius.

Cum ergo tanta sit potential creatoris atque maiestas, cui deum similitudini comparatis, et non potius ex creaturarum magnitudine intelligitis conditorem? Si non creditis uerbis, saltem oculis uestris credite et ex caelorum elementorumque omnium seruitute potestatem domini cogitate, QUI EDUCIT IN NUMERO MILITIAM EORUM, id est caelorum, ET OMNES EX NOMINE UOCAT, subauditur stellas, de quibus et in psalmis canitur: Qui numerat multitudinem stellarum et omnes eas nomine uocat. Siue militiam caeli angelos interpretemur et omnes caelorum exercitus, de quibes et Danihel loquitur: Milia milium ministrabant ei, et decies centena milia assistebant illi. Unde et dominus sabaoth appellatur, qui in nostra lingua dicitur dominus “militiae” atque “exercitum” siue “uirtutum.” Educit autem iuxta numerum caelorum militiam, ut et sol et luna et astra cetera, quae Abraham numerare non potuit, illi numerata sint et seruiant officio delegato, dum eumdem caeli cursum sol uno anno, Lucifer uesperque biennio, luna singulis explet mensibus, omnesque stellae certis temporibus peragrant, et quaedam ex his uocantur errantes, atque inequales earum motus oculis, non mente conspicimus, nec tam intellegimus quam miramur. Magnitudo enim fortitudinis dei suo facit ordine cuncta seruire, siue iuxta Septuaginta a multitudine gloriae et potentia uirtutis eius nihil eum latere potest, sed omnium uias rationesque et cursus creatoris maiestate cognoscit.

[Hieronymi Presbyteri Commentariorum In Esaiam Libri, Book XI, 27. Commentaires de Jerome Sur Le Prophete Isaie. Ed. Roger Gryson. Verlag Herder Freiberg. Breisgau (Germany), 1996. p.1255-57. (Section: Isaiah 40,21-26)]

For comparison, Robert J. Schneider comments on the above passage and gives a partial translation.

Robert J. Schneider writes:

Greek gýros turns up in its transliterated form gyrus–present in Roman literature as early as Lucretius (mid-first century BC)–in the Latin versions of the Bible as well.[27] St. Jerome (c. 340-420), the early Latin Church’s master linguist and Bible translator, began his work on the Old Testament by creating a standard version from the several unreliable Old Latin recensions then in existence, using as a valuable aid Origen’s fair copy of the Hexapla which he consulted in the library at Caesarea around 386 AD.[28] The Old Latin recensions were based on the LXX [Septuagint] and commonly rendered this same portion of Isa. 40:22a as “qui tenet gyrum terrae.”[29] Later, when he prepared a new version from the Hebrew that would become part of the Vulgate, he kept the Old Latin reading, changing only the verb tenet, “dwells,” to sedet, “sits.”[30] And in his Commentary on Isaiah, Jerome, who is regarded by critics today as a competent and careful scholar,[31] specifically rejected the notion that in this verse the prophet is referring to a spherical earth.[32]

[Footnote 32]. S. Hieronymi Presbyteri Commentariorum In Esaiam Libri, XI, ed. M. Adriaen. Corpus Christianorum, 73 (Turnholt, Belgium: Brepols, 1963), 2:463. Jerome’s comment shows that interpreting the Bible in light of current scientific theory or knowledge has a long history in Christianity. Having in mind the popular Aristotelian theory of the four elements, which makes earth the heaviest and water the lighter element, he states that God “[had] established the great mass of the land and had gathered it together above the seas and rivers, so that the heaviest element [earth] hangs over the lighter weight waters by the will of God, who like a king sits above the circle of the earth.” (Deus, qui tantam molem terrae fundas[set] et super maria et super flumina collocasset eam, ut elementum grauissimum super tenues aquas Dei penderet arbitrio, qui instar regis sedet super gyrum terrae.) Although, he adds: “there are some who assert that this mass is like a point and globe” [scil., in the center of the universe, according to Greek theory] … (Ex quo nonnulli quasi punctum et globum eam [molem terrae] esse contendunt …), Jerome rejects this assertion: “What, then, will the land be over …?” (Quid igitur superbit terra …?) (ibid., xl, 21/26). [referring to Job 26:7]

[Robert J. Schneider, Does the Bible Teach a Spherical Earth?]

I will copy references for Athanasius and Eusebius later.

Karen S. said:

Maybe he just got a bash in the head of common sense, reason, and logic. It happens, you know. It could conceivably happen to you.

Denis Lamoureux comes to mind. He was once a YEC and set out to study science so he could use it to support creationism. However, education opened his eyes to reality and he gave up creationism. Still a believer, though.

Similar stories for ex-YECs Gordon Glover and Karl Giberson (both Glover and Giberson dreamed of working at ICR during their youth, Giberson [still a YEC at the time] even met Henry Morris and Duane Gish in person).

Ditto recently retired geologist Davis Young at Calvin College, ditto geophysicist Glenn Morton among others.

Unfortunately, former YECs sometimes go through spiritual anguish during the conversion process and then suffer added salt to the wounds when they are ostracized by other YECs, even by friends and family.

Karen S. said:

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?)

Try being in my shoes: An ex-YEC with a large percentage of your family/relatives still being anti-evolutionists and most of them YECs! Sure to stir up the figurative hornets nest at times.

Although one of my siblings is also an ex-YEC (but like me remains a theist), another sibling remains very much a YEC and even works at a YEC oriented fundamentalist school. One other family member currently seems on the verge of switching from YECism to OECism; otherwise, people often stay set in their ways no matter how much they are exposed to mainstream scientific evidence.

While there will be individuals like me discarding anti-evolutionism during their lifetimes, in the end it sadly seems that new generations replacing old generations could be the main way anti-evolutionism will become less relevant.

Tenncrain said:

Karen S. said:

Maybe he just got a bash in the head of common sense, reason, and logic. It happens, you know. It could conceivably happen to you.

Denis Lamoureux comes to mind. He was once a YEC and set out to study science so he could use it to support creationism. However, education opened his eyes to reality and he gave up creationism. Still a believer, though.

Similar stories for ex-YECs Gordon Glover and Karl Giberson (both Glover and Giberson dreamed of working at ICR during their youth, Giberson [still a YEC at the time] even met Henry Morris and Duane Gish in person).

Ditto recently retired geologist Davis Young at Calvin College, ditto geophysicist Glenn Morton among others.

Unfortunately, former YECs sometimes go through spiritual anguish during the conversion process and then suffer added salt to the wounds when they are ostracized by other YECs, even by friends and family.

Karen S. said:

Looks like a very interesting site, one that could convince more of my fellow believers to accept science. (Dream on, right?)

Try being in my shoes: An ex-YEC with a large percentage of your family/relatives still being anti-evolutionists and most of them YECs! Sure to stir up the figurative hornets nest at times.

Although one of my siblings is also an ex-YEC (but like me remains a theist), another sibling remains very much a YEC and even works at a YEC oriented fundamentalist school. One other family member currently seems on the verge of switching from YECism to OECism; otherwise, people often stay set in their ways no matter how much they are exposed to mainstream scientific evidence.

While there will be individuals like me discarding anti-evolutionism during their lifetimes, in the end it sadly seems that new generations replacing old generations could be the main way anti-evolutionism will become less relevant.

This is my oversimplified version of findings from psychology, but…

When reality conflicts with a person’s belief, they feel cognitive dissonance.

Depending on the situation, they do one of two things -

1) Go through the process of dealing with the fact that they were wrong, or…

2) Double down on the false belief and develop new emotional strategies to shield themselves from contradictory evidence.

If someone goes the second route, they may go through that process multiple times. They create a situation in which dealing with reality becomes almost inconceivable.

I’m incredibly impressed by the existence of people are able to think their way out of evolution denial.

For a lot of creationists, there is literally, in my opinion, no way that they can happily accept scientific reality. They’ve built up such intense emotional barriers that only something like a Patty Hearst type experience would break them down, and the process would be incredibly painful and stressful.

I’ve learned to model people over 25 who have brainwashed themselves into creationism, or related slogan-based authoritarian follower ideologies, as literally impossible to convince with standard reasoning. They’ve already repeatedly trained themselves to react with denial and by invoking a slew of irrational defense mechanisms.

When

Fred Heeren and his claims have direct correspondence to the concept of “double agent.”

Heeren poses as a traditional Evangelical Christian who comes to accept evolution then proceeds to attack his “previous unenlightened” position as a Bible-believing Christian and anti-Evolutionist. Bible and Christianity are thus undermined, from within, by “one of their own.”

One could not offer better evidence supporting the Biblical claim of the existence of an invisible Deceiver (Satan).

RM (Evangelical Christian, Old Earth, species immutabilist)

Fred Hereen: “Encouraging Christians to reverse their reputation for anti-intellectualism, insensitivity, and judgmentalism.”

Something an enemy or Atheist would say. Real Christians would never produce this type of slander concerning Christ and His followers.

“Heeren goes on to explain that his ‘work on science news stories’ has acquainted him with the work of cosmologists, paleontologists, and biologists, and helped him ‘see the way their discoveries are misunderstood by those who view them as a threat to their faith [my italics].’”

Hereen doesn’t understand that science today uses pro-Atheism assumptions interpret reality and evidence. These assumptions are known as Naturalism or Materialism. Since the fact is basic Hereen is inexcusably ignorant or stupid.

Fred Hereen: “Once Christians learn that their Bible is not a science book, they can become less defensive and more open to what science reveals.”

These comments say the Bible is scientifically and historically false. This is what all Atheists must believe about the Bible. Real Christians know otherwise; that the Bible is scientifically and historically true—that’s why we are Christians.

Design is seen in every aspect of animate nature. The fact implies the work of invisible Designer, and falsifies the assumptions of Naturalism, Materialism, and their main product (evolution) in its tracks.

Ray Martinez said:

Fred Heeren and his claims have direct correspondence to the concept of “double agent.”

Heeren poses as a traditional Evangelical Christian who comes to accept evolution then proceeds to attack his “previous unenlightened” position as a Bible-believing Christian and anti-Evolutionist. Bible and Christianity are thus undermined, from within, by “one of their own.”

One could not offer better evidence supporting the Biblical claim of the existence of an invisible Deceiver (Satan).

RM (Evangelical Christian, Old Earth, species immutabilist)

You have a strange notion of “evidence”.… How in any sense is this “evidence” for the existence of supernatural evil manipulation. I suppose it might be “compatible” with the existence of Satan, and even the sort of behavior one might expect from Satan if he existed, but its certainly not “evidence” that he does exist. Far more reasonable to take the man at his word that he changed his mind based on exposure to actual science.

Ray Martinez said:

Fred Hereen: “Encouraging Christians to reverse their reputation for anti-intellectualism, insensitivity, and judgmentalism.”

Something an enemy or Atheist would say. Real Christians would never produce this type of slander concerning Christ and His followers.

This isn’t any sort of comment on Christ, certainly not slander. It is not even a comment on Christians. Merely a comment on the “reputation” of Christians among non-Christians. Do you deny that many non-Christians view Christians as “anti-intellectual,” “insensitive,” and “judgemental”? In my experience, this reputation is widespread, whether deserved or not. In fact, though, in my experience (especially my on-line experience) many (not all) Christians including you certainly deserve that reputation.

“Heeren goes on to explain that his ‘work on science news stories’ has acquainted him with the work of cosmologists, paleontologists, and biologists, and helped him ‘see the way their discoveries are misunderstood by those who view them as a threat to their faith [my italics].’”

Hereen doesn’t understand that science today uses pro-Atheism assumptions interpret reality and evidence. These assumptions are known as Naturalism or Materialism. Since the fact is basic Hereen is inexcusably ignorant or stupid.

You are confusing (as usual) ontological materialism and methodological materialism. This has been explained to you in various forms ad nauseum. Science requires the latter, not the former, and thus is not necessarily atheistic, which is way so many religious believers function perf3ectly well as scientists.

Fred Hereen: “Once Christians learn that their Bible is not a science book, they can become less defensive and more open to what science reveals.”

These comments say the Bible is scientifically and historically false. This is what all Atheists must believe about the Bible. Real Christians know otherwise; that the Bible is scientifically and historically true—that’s why we are Christians.

Real Christians™ have many different ways of understanding the historicity of the Bible. If you were a Real Christian ™ yourself you would understand that.

Design is seen in every aspect of animate nature. The fact implies the work of invisible Designer, and falsifies the assumptions of Naturalism, Materialism, and their main product (evolution) in its tracks.

I see bunnies when I look at clouds. Or clowns. Depends upon my mood. The fact implies the work of a magic sky fairy and falsifies the assumptions of Anti-Bunniness and Clown-O-Phobia in their giant floppy footed tracks.

You really don’t understand “evidence” or “falsification” do you?

Ray Martinez said:

Design is seen in every aspect of animate nature. The fact implies the work of invisible Designer, and falsifies the assumptions of Naturalism, Materialism, and their main product (evolution) in its tracks.

YOU see design. I don’t. How can I detect this “design” you say exists? How can I build a design detector?

Please do not feed the Martinez troll. As Sylvilagus says, it has been corrected innumerable times and never learns.

Harold’s point: “cognitive dissonance”

My response: “theistic evolution”

FL

This passage is also not very definite. He is defending the position that the earth as described in Isaiah is flat, and in particular insists that the LXX mistranslated a Hebrew word he transliterates here as DOC as ‘hemisphere’ but he thinks it means dust or dirt. I don’t know Hebrew, so I won’t comment on that. But this text also doesn’t contain any specific statement of his own belief.

What Schneider’s footnote is getting at, is that Plato and the Pythagoreans hold that the elements are arranged by density–earth lowest, then water, then air, then fire on the top, but Isaiah holds that God intervenes to hold the earth above the water, and what that is about is the old Babylonian cosmology where by the whole universe is a bubble (with the earth as a flat disk in the middle between heaven and hell) floating in an infinite ocean, although I don’t think Jerome understands that–He seems to think it refers to things like cliffs towering over the sea. I don’t see anything there that clearly points to a flat earth as his own belief.

Frankly, for any post-Aristotelian, post-Ptolemaic author, you would need pretty clear evidence that they rejected the sphericity of the earth. Lactantius provides it, when he gibbers about the impossibility of Australians (he calls them Atnipodians) standing upside down, and so forth. But there is nothing like that here or in the aforementioned Eusebius.

diogeneslamp0 said:

Helena Constantine said:

diogeneslamp0 said:

By the way, does anybody here read Latin? I have a passage from St. Jerome I’d like somebody to translate, re: flatness of the Earth.

Possum in linguam Latinam Legare. Quae verba?

I’d very much like to see it actually. I only know Russell from his work on witchcraft, but I would very surprised to see texts that indicate Athansisus or Eusebius were flat earthers. Do you have the reference for those two to hand?

St. Jerome of course is the translator of the Vulgate.

Below is his commentary on Isaiah 40:21-26, which includes the oft-quoted verse 22, “He [God] sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like locusts.” I copied this from a French edition printed in Germany with text in Latin.

If you find any obvious errors in my transcription, let me know. Also compare this to Robert J. Schneider’s partial translation below– there are very small differences.

St. Jerome wrote:

Vulgage 40:22: Qui sedet super gyrum terrae, et habitatores eius quasi locustae, qui extendit velut nihil caelos et expandit eos sicut tabernaculum ad inhabitandum, (23) qui dat secretorum scrutatores quasi non sint, iudices terrae velut inane fecit.

LXX [Septuagint]: Nonne scietis? Nonne Audietis? Non adnuntiatum est vobis a principio? Non cognovistis fundamenta terrae? Qui tenet gyrum terrae et habitatores eius quasi locustas, qui statuit quasi camaram caelum et extendit quasi tabernaculum ad habitandum, qui dat principes regnare pro nihili, terram autem quasi nihili fecit.

…Ab initio, inquit, naturali lege uos docui, et postea per Moysen scripta lege testatus sum quod nihil essent idola, et quod creator mundi ipse esset deus, qui tantam molem terrae fundasset super maria et super flumina collocasset eam, ut elementum grauissimum super tenues aquas Dei penderet arbitrio, qui instar regis sedet super gyrum terrae – ex quo nonnulli quasi punctum et globum [eam] esse contendunt, - et habitatores illius quasi locustas; si enim in toto orbe consideremus uarias nations, et ab oceano usque ad oceanum, id est ab Indico mari usque ad Brittanicum, et ab Atlantico usque ad septentrionis rigorem, in quo congelascunt aquae, et sucina pulchra concrescunt, omne in medio hominum genus quasi locustas habitare cernimus. Quid igitur superbit terra et cinis? Quia si caelum, immo, ut scripturarum utamur auctoritate, caeli extenduntur quasi camara siue, ut in hebraico continetur, quasi DOC, de quo supra diximus, – pro quo LXX ibi saliuam interpretati sunt et unum uerbum nunc sputum, nunc camarum, id est fornicem, transtulerunt, – et tantam eorum latitudinem quasi tabernaculum et papilionem extendit desuper, ut in similitudinem tecti operiret homines et quasi in domo latissima habitare faceret, quid miremur si parua hominum corpora quasi locustae et minuta reputentur animantia? Rursum et in hoc loco qui HMIKYKΛIΩN terris imminere caelorum et in similitudinem sphaerae caelum esse contendunt, abutuntur nomine fornicis, quod scilicet media pars sphaerae terras operiat, cum in hebraico non fornicem, sed DOC, id est tenuissimum puluerem legerimus. Pro quo saliua quae proicitur in terram et pulueri commiscetur et deperit, ostendit uniuersam corporum magnitudinem pro nihili reputandam.

[p.1257-9]: Qui autem extendit caelos et expandit eos, ut uel supra habitarent angelorum mutlitudines, uel subter homines morarentur, et quasi magnam rationabilibus creaturis fecit domum, ipse pro qualitate temporum principes constituit siue secretorum scrutatores, ut sint quasi non sint, et IUDICES TERRAE VELUT INANE FECIT. Pro quo LXX transtulerunt: TERRAM AUTEM QUASI NIHILI FECIT; siquidem et in principio Geneseos, ubi scriptum est: “Terra autem erat inane et nihili.” Quantos reges et graeca et Barbara romanaque narrat historia! Ubi est Xerxis innumerabilis ille exercitus? Ubi israelitica in eremo multitudo? Ubi regum incredibilis potential? Quid de ueteribus loquar? Praesentia exempla nos doceant esse principes quasi nihili, et iudices terrae quasi inane reputari. Qui principes et iudices terrae siue, ut alii suspicantur, caeli, nec sati sunt, nec plantati, nec firma radice solidati, et repente iussione dei ita auferuntur, et pereunt quasi stipula turbine et tempestate raptetur, iuxta illud quod scriptum est: Et transiui, et non erat, et quaesiui eum, et non est inuentus locus eius.

Cum ergo tanta sit potential creatoris atque maiestas, cui deum similitudini comparatis, et non potius ex creaturarum magnitudine intelligitis conditorem? Si non creditis uerbis, saltem oculis uestris credite et ex caelorum elementorumque omnium seruitute potestatem domini cogitate, QUI EDUCIT IN NUMERO MILITIAM EORUM, id est caelorum, ET OMNES EX NOMINE UOCAT, subauditur stellas, de quibus et in psalmis canitur: Qui numerat multitudinem stellarum et omnes eas nomine uocat. Siue militiam caeli angelos interpretemur et omnes caelorum exercitus, de quibes et Danihel loquitur: Milia milium ministrabant ei, et decies centena milia assistebant illi. Unde et dominus sabaoth appellatur, qui in nostra lingua dicitur dominus “militiae” atque “exercitum” siue “uirtutum.” Educit autem iuxta numerum caelorum militiam, ut et sol et luna et astra cetera, quae Abraham numerare non potuit, illi numerata sint et seruiant officio delegato, dum eumdem caeli cursum sol uno anno, Lucifer uesperque biennio, luna singulis explet mensibus, omnesque stellae certis temporibus peragrant, et quaedam ex his uocantur errantes, atque inequales earum motus oculis, non mente conspicimus, nec tam intellegimus quam miramur. Magnitudo enim fortitudinis dei suo facit ordine cuncta seruire, siue iuxta Septuaginta a multitudine gloriae et potentia uirtutis eius nihil eum latere potest, sed omnium uias rationesque et cursus creatoris maiestate cognoscit.

[Hieronymi Presbyteri Commentariorum In Esaiam Libri, Book XI, 27. Commentaires de Jerome Sur Le Prophete Isaie. Ed. Roger Gryson. Verlag Herder Freiberg. Breisgau (Germany), 1996. p.1255-57. (Section: Isaiah 40,21-26)]

For comparison, Robert J. Schneider comments on the above passage and gives a partial translation.

Robert J. Schneider writes:

Greek gýros turns up in its transliterated form gyrus–present in Roman literature as early as Lucretius (mid-first century BC)–in the Latin versions of the Bible as well.[27] St. Jerome (c. 340-420), the early Latin Church’s master linguist and Bible translator, began his work on the Old Testament by creating a standard version from the several unreliable Old Latin recensions then in existence, using as a valuable aid Origen’s fair copy of the Hexapla which he consulted in the library at Caesarea around 386 AD.[28] The Old Latin recensions were based on the LXX [Septuagint] and commonly rendered this same portion of Isa. 40:22a as “qui tenet gyrum terrae.”[29] Later, when he prepared a new version from the Hebrew that would become part of the Vulgate, he kept the Old Latin reading, changing only the verb tenet, “dwells,” to sedet, “sits.”[30] And in his Commentary on Isaiah, Jerome, who is regarded by critics today as a competent and careful scholar,[31] specifically rejected the notion that in this verse the prophet is referring to a spherical earth.[32]

[Footnote 32]. S. Hieronymi Presbyteri Commentariorum In Esaiam Libri, XI, ed. M. Adriaen. Corpus Christianorum, 73 (Turnholt, Belgium: Brepols, 1963), 2:463. Jerome’s comment shows that interpreting the Bible in light of current scientific theory or knowledge has a long history in Christianity. Having in mind the popular Aristotelian theory of the four elements, which makes earth the heaviest and water the lighter element, he states that God “[had] established the great mass of the land and had gathered it together above the seas and rivers, so that the heaviest element [earth] hangs over the lighter weight waters by the will of God, who like a king sits above the circle of the earth.” (Deus, qui tantam molem terrae fundas[set] et super maria et super flumina collocasset eam, ut elementum grauissimum super tenues aquas Dei penderet arbitrio, qui instar regis sedet super gyrum terrae.) Although, he adds: “there are some who assert that this mass is like a point and globe” [scil., in the center of the universe, according to Greek theory] … (Ex quo nonnulli quasi punctum et globum eam [molem terrae] esse contendunt …), Jerome rejects this assertion: “What, then, will the land be over …?” (Quid igitur superbit terra …?) (ibid., xl, 21/26). [referring to Job 26:7]

[Robert J. Schneider, Does the Bible Teach a Spherical Earth?]

I will copy references for Athanasius and Eusebius later.

FL said:

Harold’s point: “cognitive dissonance”

My response: “theistic evolution”

FL

But accepting evolution would mean getting rid of the cognitive dissonance and persistent denial is doubling down…oh, never mind.

Helena Constantine said:

Frankly, for any post-Aristotelian, post-Ptolemaic author, you would need pretty clear evidence that they rejected the sphericity of the earth. Lactantius provides it, when he gibbers about the impossibility of Australians (he calls them Atnipodians) standing upside down, and so forth. But there is nothing like that here or in the aforementioned Eusebius.

As an aside to this discussion …

Advanced thinkers may long have considered the earth as spherical, but surely the majority of the population everywhere thought that it was flat – after all, they could see that for themselves. There was no public education, and the church authorities did not disabuse them of the flat-earth notion, particularly since most priests were themselves badly educated, and were not themselves among the Advanced Thinkers.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Helena Constantine said:

This passage is also not very definite. He is defending the position that the earth as described in Isaiah is flat

But Jerome believes the Bible is inerrant, therefore he believes the Earth is flat. That’s pretty definite.

But this text also doesn’t contain any specific statement of his own belief.

I disagree; he says the Earth is suspended over water. This is consistent with the traditional view of an ocean below the Earth and an ocean above [although Jerome does not here mention the latter, he does affirm the former.] All the Church fathers believed there was an ocean of water, and angels above the sky: the Round Earthers said the sky was a sphere, the Flat Earthers said the sky was like a vault.

He [Jerome] seems to think it refers to things like cliffs towering over the sea.

Where? Where does Jerome say it’s about cliffs towering above the sea? I didn’t catch that part.

What I did catch is that he says is that the Earth floats on the water, even though earth is heavier than water. So that’s a violation of the laws of physics, which he did understand, and this violation is proof of God’s supernatural intervention.

This is rejection of the Round Earth theory, which was quite clear that the Earth was stable because the downward force of each part of the earth was opposed by the upward force of its antipode. The Round Earth theory was explicit on that.

Jerome makes no mention of that physics idea, and instead says Earth is floating on water, which is the Biblical view. Athanasius makes the same point.

What Schneider’s footnote is getting at, is that Plato and the Pythagoreans hold that the elements are arranged by density–earth lowest, then water, then air, then fire on the top, but Isaiah holds that God intervenes to hold the earth above the water, and what that is about is the old Babylonian cosmology where by the whole universe is a bubble (with the earth as a flat disk in the middle between heaven and hell) floating in an infinite ocean, although I don’t think Jerome understands that–

That’s not what Schneider says: Schneider says Jerome considers and rejects a spherical Earth.

Of course Jerome is talking about the density of materials, but he’s using this to argue that the construction of the cosmos is counter-intuitve, thus being proof of God’s supernatural intervention, and a rejection of naturalism and pantheism.

This was a common theme in the Church Father’s interpretations of Genesis [Hexamerae]: the construction of the cosmos is counter-intuitve, thus God was showing off his supernatural power, thus rejecting the possiblity of naturalism and pantheism.

Frankly, for any post-Aristotelian, post-Ptolemaic author, you would need pretty clear evidence that they rejected the sphericity of the earth. Lactantius provides it, when he gibbers about the impossibility of Australians (he calls them Atnipodians) standing upside down, and so forth. But there is nothing like that here or in the aforementioned Eusebius.

No, that’s begging the question: you’re assuming what you need to prove. You’re assuming that most early Christians were Round Earthers, thus you assume that’s the default. You need to show that’s true of MOST of them before you can assume it’s the default. No one even tried to do that, least of all J. B. Russell.

I said I’d give references for Athanasius and Eusebius. Athanasius uses a similar argument to that of St. Jerome above: Earth which is heavier floats on top of water, which is lighter, which is a violation of the laws of physics, and proves the supernatural intervention of God. There is no trace of Round Earth theory, in which the force downward of one part of the earth is opposed by the opposite force from its antipode.

Athanasius wrote:

“And wells, again, and rivers will never exist without the earth; but the earth is not supported upon itself, but is set upon the realm of the waters, while this again is kept in its place, being bound fast at the centre of the universe. And the sea, and the great ocean that flows outside round the whole earth, is moved and borne by winds…”

[Athansius, Against the Heathen, Book I, Chapter 27.6]

“Or who that sees the earth, heaviest of all things by nature, fixed upon the waters, and remaining unmoved upon what is by nature mobile, will fail to understand that there is One that has made and ordered it, even God? …And again, earth is very heavy, while water on the other hand is relatively light; and yet the heavier is supported upon the lighter, and the earth does not sink, but remains immoveable.”

[Athansius, Against the Heathen, Book III, Chapter 36.2]

Helena Constantine said:

Looking quickly on the internet, I was able to find a search only copy of Russell’s book on Google Books, which led me to the portion of the note you cite that pertains to Eusebius. He says there: “Eusebius… (Preap. Evg. 15:56-57) sorts through the opinions of the philosophers and seems to opt for roundness.” This indeed seems to distort what Eusebius says. He quotes the diversity of opinions held by various Presocratics, including options for a sphere and a flat earth, but gives no hint of his own view. Reading more widely, his purpose in the chapter, as throughout, is to point out that Greeks disagree with each other and therefore can’t be taken as authorities, supporting his general idea that once any field of Greek learning is disposed of in this way, the aspiring bureaucrats in his audience will have no choice but to accept the authority of the Bible on the matter. But he doesn’t give any hint of himself favoring one shape of the earth over the other, probably for the very good reason that if he did he would have to prove his own position and not just mock his opponents. So your interpretation doesn’t seem to come anywhere closer to the truth than Russell’s–unless you have an additional citation?

I’ve been asked for an additional citation from Eusebius, whom I called a Flat Earther. Helena Constantine correctly points out that Jeffrey Burton Russell’s reference Prep. Evang. Book 15: 56-57 does not show he is a Round Earther as Russell claims. Before I return to Prep. Evang., here is why I call him a Flat Earther:

Eusebius wrote:

The solid fabric of the earth was established by your word: the winds receive their impulse at appointed times; and the course of the waters continues with ceaseless flow, the ocean is circumscribed by an immovable barrier, and whatever is comprehended within the compass of earth and sea, is all contrived for wondrous and important ends.

[Eusebius of Ceasarea, Life of Constantine, Book II, Ch. 58]

He says the ocean is surrounded by a wall, which is typical of Flat Earth theory and has nothing to do with a Round Earth.

An alert reader (as opposed to my friend, Alert Reader) pointed out that he could not find the phrase,

to help “reach skeptics with the good news of Jesus Christ”

in the online version of Heeren’s booklet. Indeed you cannot; if you click the “Donate” link, you find instead,

Day Star Research is a non-denominational, non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian organization. If you’re like-minded with us and want to help make Christians more compassionate and scientifically literate, we’d be so grateful if you’d join us in this work through your financial support.

If it is Christian, then it is not nondenominational, but my concern is whether Mr. Heeren is being, shall we say, inconsistent in emphasizing one aspect of his program to one group and another aspect to another.

Matt Young said: If it is Christian, then it is not nondenominational, but my concern is whether Mr. Heeren is being, shall we say, inconsistent in emphasizing one aspect of his program to one group and another aspect to another.

Haven’t you ever heard that “nondenominational” means “we don’t care *what* kind of Protestant you are.”

Matt Young said:

An alert reader (as opposed to my friend, Alert Reader) pointed out that he could not find the phrase,

to help “reach skeptics with the good news of Jesus Christ”

in the online version of Heeren’s booklet. Indeed you cannot; if you click the “Donate” link, you find instead,

Day Star Research is a non-denominational, non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian organization. If you’re like-minded with us and want to help make Christians more compassionate and scientifically literate, we’d be so grateful if you’d join us in this work through your financial support.

If it is Christian, then it is not nondenominational, but my concern is whether Mr. Heeren is being, shall we say, inconsistent in emphasizing one aspect of his program to one group and another aspect to another.

How is that inconsistent? Being scientifically illiterate and lacking compassion means we have zero credibility with skeptics. Therefore, it is more important to focus on communicating with other Christians first.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on May 22, 2013 8:00 AM.

The world’s rarest birds was the previous entry in this blog.

Cockroaches evolve aversion to glucose is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.38

Site Meter