iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Tag Archives: Creation

divine creation in general and the natural world as a creation of God

Distinctions of Genesis 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless, and indistinct; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. The evening and the morning were the first day. So the first distinction was between Day and Night.

Then God said, Let there be a space in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. Thus God made the space, and divided the waters which were under the space from the waters which were above the space; and it was so. And God called the space Heaven. The evening and the morning were the second day. So the second distinction was between waters below and above Heaven.

Then God said, Let the waters under Heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the Earth; and it was so. And the Earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. The evening and the morning were the third day. So the third distinction was between the Earth and the Seas.

Then God said, Let there be lights in the space of Heaven to distinguish the Day from the Night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the space of Heaven to give light on the Earth; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the Day, and the lesser light to rule the Night–and also the stars. God set them in the space of Heaven to give light on the Earth, and to rule over the Day and over the Night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. The evening and the morning were the fourth day. So the Day was marked with the greater light and Night was marked with the lesser light.

Then God said, Let the Seas abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the space of the Heavens. So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the Seas, and let birds multiply on the Earth. The evening and the morning were the fifth day. So the Seas were marked with fish and Heaven was marked with birds.

Then God said, Let the Earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind; and it was so. And God made the beast of the Earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the Earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the Seas, over the birds of the Heaven, and over all the Earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the Earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply; fill the Earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the Seas, over the birds of Heaven, and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.

And God said, See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the Earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the Earth, to every bird of Heaven, and to everything that creeps on the Earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. The evening and the morning were the sixth day. So the Earth was marked with man.

Thus the Heaven and the Earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all His work which he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he rested from all his work which God had created and made. So the seventh day was marked with the Sabbath.

Intensional science

The word intension is not as well-known as its homophone intention. The word intension denotes the intrinsic meaning of a word, also called the comprehension or connotation. It contrasts with the extension, which denotes the range of applicability or objects to which the word refers, also known as the denotation. For example, the intension of “boat” is “a small vehicle for mobility on water” but the extension is the particular boat or boats that are included such as canoes, kayaks, rowboats, etc.

In physical science the extension particularly refers to the primary qualities of size, shape, and number which belong to physical matter independently of an observer. Modern science focuses on the extensional side of things and is less interested in the intensions associated with them. This is the basic reason why modern science lacks meaningfulness; it has little to say about intensions.

Is there a kind of science that is interested in the intensional side of things? Yes, but it is considered primitive by modern science. This can be explained by the inverse relation between the intension and the extension of words: as the intension expands and becomes more specific, the extension gets smaller and as the intension contracts into one more general, the extension gets larger. For example, the extension of “boat” covers all the boats in the world but the extension of the more specific term “speed boat” covers only boats which are built for speed.

Extensional science privileges a theory with a larger extension over one with a smaller extension. But an intensional science would privilege a theory with a larger intension, which means a smaller extension. For example, a geocentric theory is considered primitive by extensional science but its small extension would not be a disadvantage to an intensional science. The value of a theory would depend more on how meaningful it is.

This makes intensional science very strange from the modern perspective which so values large extensions. It does however lead to a reevaluation of traditional theories or narratives, which may have deep intensional aspects. For example, consider cosmology in the ancient Near East:

Sumerian cosmology became the foundation of many Near Eastern concepts. The Sumerians speculated that the major components of the universe were heaven (a vaulted, hollow space) and earth (a flat disc) which existed, immovably, in a boundless sea from which the universe had come into being. Between heaven and earth was the atmosphere, from which the sun, moon and stars were fashioned. The separation of heaven and earth and the creation of the planets were followed by plant, animal and human life. Invisible, immortal gods guided and controlled this universe, according to prescribed rules. [A New Dictionary of Religions, edited by John R. Hinnells, Blackwell, 1995.]

Again, this is very primitive from the extensional perspective. It doesn’t mention the earth’s rotation about an axis, its orbit around the sun, the distance to the stars, etc. But it fits the everyday world we live in, which is not a world of light-years and large masses; it’s a world with the earth’s surface below and a curved space above. And it’s part of a narrative about who is behind the universe and why it exists. Extensional science has nothing to offer on that subject.

This leads to consideration of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. There certainly are similarities between the Genesis narrative and the Sumerian cosmology. Their extension is minimal but their intension is part of a narrative about the meaning of the universe. The Genesis narrative contains many subtleties noted by commentators over the centuries. It repays close study and meditation. It is part of the Bible, which is certainly a very profound book, and for a large portion of humanity is Holy Scripture.

A mature intensional theory would correspond to reality in its own way. All traditional narratives are not equally valid. Criteria need to be developed to privilege the better ones. Insofar as intensional and extensional theories overlap, they should be consistent with one another. Modifying an extensional theory for intensional reasons would no doubt be controversial.

Which is better, extensional or intensional science? Neither. They both have their places. Extensional science is well suited for studying the furthest stars, the possibility of interplanetary travel, and more mundane tasks such as building roads and bridges. Intensional science gives us a meaningful understanding of the universe, tells us who is behind it, why it exists, and why we’re here. We need both.

Creation and paradigm

Creation is a fact. Creation is the oldest fact but creation as a paradigm is relatively new. Let me explain.

The word “paradigm” was used by Thomas Kuhn for “universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners.” I would characterize a paradigm as a theme or framework that relates a family of theories and a research agenda.

The ancient paradigm was Perfection. This included theories of circular movement since circles were considered perfect. It also included theories of stasis since change was considered imperfect.

The Perfection paradigm led to a world of static biological species that could not be improved on. This is where the Creation paradigm first arose: God created the perfect universe and it hasn’t really changed. So the Perfection paradigm at first incorporated a Creation paradigm.

Stasis was challenged by Copernicus since the earth moved in his theory. Perfection was further challenged by Kepler and especially Newton since ellipses and other non-circular movements were included.

The new paradigm that arose was the Mechanical paradigm. Theories under this paradigm had movements that fit mathematical curves and concepts such as force which had a mechanical analogue. Linear was in and circular was out.

But as the imperfection and changeability of species became known, a new paradigm arose called the Evolution paradigm, which was a paradigm of change and transformation over long periods of time. The extreme form of this paradigm makes change the operative principle–exactly the opposite of stasis.

Some have tried to fit the Creation paradigm under the Evolution paradigm but increasingly the Creation paradigm is seen as a paradigm in its own right. The key distinguishing features of the Creation paradigm are the existence of an original state of the universe, the presence of intelligent design in nature, and discontinuities that reflect the kinds of creation.

The Creation paradigm now incorporates change within limits. The existence of a fall or movement away from perfection is also recognized. The best aspects of the other paradigms can be incorporated into the Creation paradigm.

Science and terminology

Science is knowledge (scientia) that is systematically gained and/or organized. That entails that the terminology of science be systematic, i.e, a nomenclature rather than a hodgepodge of terms. This can make discussions about science hard since people have to learn a body of nomenclature before understanding a science. This applies to all sciences, whether natural sciences, social sciences, historical sciences, or subjects with some systematization such as systematic theology.

But a more pressing challenge for discussions of science is the use of words that have both technical and non-technical meanings. Within a science only the technical usage should apply but discussions of a science inevitably use some of the same words from general usage as well. So terms with a precise meaning within a science are used along with the same term with an imprecise or ambiguous meaning.

If this were a problem that applied only to minor terms that would be a minor problem but it is a problem with major terms and terms whose meaning is disputed. The result is that people who disagree are talking past one another, misunderstanding one another, and fail to communicate. This happens especially in cases of controversy or strong disagreement. What can be done about it?

One solution is to qualify terms so it is clear what meaning is intended. For example, instead of saying “evolution” specify “unguided evolution”, “guided evolution” or “theistic evolution”. Instead of saying “design” specify “intelligent design”, “intentional design” or “divine design”. Instead of saying “creation” specify “transcendent creation”, “special creation” or “intelligent creation”. These qualified terms should be defined but the presence of a qualifier alerts people to the more specific meaning intended.

The origin of species terminology

Creationism in a philosophical/scientific context was first propounded by Socrates (David Sedley, Creationism and its Critics in Antiquity, 2007). Socrates did not provide specifics but it is often said that Plato and Aristotle did: biological species were like logical species and so did not change — species were fixed — and purportedly this is what creationists have said ever since. But that is an over-simplification which requires a two-part response: (1) what are species, and (2) what does species fixity mean?

The place to begin is with the book Species: A History of the Idea by John S. Wilkins. The author starts by rejecting what he calls “the Received View” which runs like this:

“Plato defined Form (eidos) as something that had an essence, and Aristotle set up a way of dividing genera (gene) into species (eide) so that each species shared the essence of the genus, and each individual in the species shared the essence of the species. Linnaeus took this idea and made species into constant and essentialistic types. Darwin overcame this essentialism.” p.4

Wilkins shows that the Received View is mistaken. Species have come down to us via a neo-Platonic, not an Aristotelian, route. Typology and essentialism were not bound together. Instead, what he calls the generative conception of species runs through pre-Darwinian thought.

Wilkins distinguishes two kinds of taxonomy: universal, which is classification in general by division, and biological, which is classification by generation. Plato classified things by diairesis (division) and synogage (grouping) according to their differences and similarities. The purpose was to “carve nature at its joints”.

Aristotle broadened Plato into a method that was later called per genus et differentiam — by the general type and the particular difference. For him “a species is a group that is formed by differentiating a prior group formed by a generic concept.” Aristotle accepts only the possibility (not the necessity) that species might be eternal. Similarly, the Epicureans held that “species are forms generated by the natures of their substances.”

In the modern era John Ray in the 17th century was the first to describe biological species. In his 1686 History of plants Ray was the first to produce a biological definition of species:

“… no surer criterion for determining species has occurred to me than the distinguishing features that perpetuate themselves in propagation from seed. Thus, no matter what variations occur in the individuals or the species, if they spring from the seed of one and the same plant, they are accidental variations and not such as to distinguish a species… Animals likewise that differ specifically preserve their distinct species permanently; one species never springs from the seed of another nor vice versa”. (Ernst Mayr, Growth of biological thought, p.256).

Carl Linnaeus ran with this in his Systema Naturae (“The System of Nature”) and other writings. While he later realized the species concept had its limits, it has provided a basis for natural history ever since.

The concept of permanent species came to be known as fixity of species and was the foil for Darwin, who focused on its lack of changeability. For Ray and Linnaeus change was variation that was not part of the species (the type or kind). For Darwin change is evolution which includes each species and more. It’s a question of which came first or is primary: change or type? For evolutionists, change is primary; for Darwin’s predecessors and opponents type is primary.

If type is primary, then the type or kind (which is what the word species means in Latin) is invariant. Science generally looks for and studies invariants such as conservation principles. But biologists after Darwin look for variance instead. That allows them to explain anything and everything as change. It’s a gain in explanatory ability at the cost of invariant principles. There are no laws of evolutionary biology, unless you want to make the non-law “everything is change” a law.

Articles about creationism

Articles about creationism (and intelligent design) almost always misrepresent them for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) Articles about creationism don’t quote or reference documents by creationists. Instead they explain what the author thinks creationism is. However, the author is wrong about what creationism is and ends up arguing against a position that is not that of creationists, particularly of contemporary creationists. Articles about creationism typically represent creationists by a position that is two centuries out-of-date from contemporary creationism.

(2) Articles about creationism focus on legal matters and state or imply that this is the main thrust of contemporary creationism. That is false. Leading creationists and creationist organizations have never been focused on legal matters, which are in any case irrelevant to scientific and historical arguments. Furthermore, the curiosities of U.S. legal history have no bearing on an international movement. Articles that focus on legal matters are committing the red herring fallacy.

(3) Articles about creationism misrepresent the hermeneutics of creationists. Since creationists include the Bible as a key historical source of information about the nature and history of creation, hermeneutics is relevant to the discussion. However, articles about creationism almost always state that creationists interpret the Bible literally. This is false. No one interprets the Bible literally. No one interprets the first chapter of Genesis literally. Everyone agrees there are metaphors in the Bible. Creationists have written much about the proper interpretation of Genesis. This is completely ignored by articles about creationism, even many articles written for Christians.

Some belligerent articles against creationism actually are better than many general articles about creationism because belligerent articles may engage an actual creationist argument. In general there is little two-way communication about creationism (ID is better at getting some dialogue). Commentators that attempt to describe creationism have a long way to go.

Creationist argumentation

Petteri Nieminen et al. have written two similar papers analyzing creationist writings: Argumentation and fallacies in creationist writings against evolutionary theory (Evolution: Education and Outreach, 2014, 7:11) and Experiential Thinking in Creationism–A Textual Analysis (PLOS ONE, March 3, 2015). These are welcome additions to the literature that try to shed some light and reduce the heat of debate. They also show some reasons for the impasse today.

First, they are studies of creationists but do not try to engage their arguments despite the fact that some fully credentialed and experienced scientists in peer-reviewed journals are arguing for creationism. Second, the authors select a non-random sample of texts and then make generalized conclusions — a blatant case of sample bias. Third, the authors ignore the fact that many texts in the creation-evolution debate are written for a general audience and then criticize the texts for not being sufficiently scientific (they also criticize a few pro-evolution texts).

That said, the articles are helpful in illuminating some poor or weak arguments on all sides. The ad hominem arguments are much too common (and I’d say rarely persuade anyone not already persuaded). Other arguments may have a place in a public debate but are inappropriate for a narrow scientific context. The use of quotations is an example of this.

But the authors seem unaware that at those points where “normal science” (Thomas Kuhn’s phrase) is challenged, then “anything goes” (Paul Feyerabend’s phrase), that is, any method of argumentation that works is part of the scientist’s arsenal — Darwin’s “bulldog” Thomas Huxley being a notable example.

This is my greatest disappointment with defenders of evolution — they act as if all the opposing arguments have been duly considered in the past, when that is simply false as a matter of historical record. The 19th century had its peculiarities, which prevented many arguments about creation and intelligent design from being considered. Those arguments are finally being made and the debate is on, like it or not.

Creation and evolution typology

The first issue that arises in developing a typology for ideas about creation and evolution are the terms themselves: they are sufficiently ambiguous that their meaning differs even by the same author in the same work. This can be part of a fallacy of equivocation or it can simply mean the terms are general and should not be expected to carry a technical meaning unless that is specified. Let’s take the latter path and use them as general terms.

Some authors promote creation only whereas others promote evolution only but there are other ways of speaking. Some speak of creation by evolution which means evolution but a Creator is given credit for it. Others speak of evolution by creation which means progressive creation but evolution is given credit for it. These are categorized under evolution and creation, respectively.

Further, creation used to mean static creation, that is, life, the earth, and the universe were created in a state that has not significantly changed. Also, evolution used to mean only gradual evolution, that is, life, the earth, and the universe have changed gradually but drastically over a long period of time.

Others combine creation and evolution in a kind of partnership. Creation with evolution makes creation primary but acknowledges something like evolution within created limits. This dynamic creation differs from the older conception of a purely static creation. Evolution with creation applies to others who make evolution primary but acknowledge something like creation within evolutionary limits. Evolution with large catastrophic or saltational changes differs from the older conception of a purely gradual evolution.

So we have six possibilities under the two headings of creation and evolution:

1. Creation  (e.g., static creation) 4. Evolution (e.g., gradual evolution)
2. Creation with evolution (e.g., dynamic creation) 5. Evolution with creation (e.g., saltational evolution)
3. Evolution by creation (e.g., progressive creation) 6. Creation by evolution (e.g., theistic evolution)

Of these six, 1, 2, and 3 acknowledge an explicit Creator but 4, 5, and 6 consider a Creator to be undetectable even if acknowledged (as in 6). All but 1 have some form of evolution in the general sense of the word. All but 4 have some form of creation in the general sense of the word.

So creation and evolution are general concepts that can work together in different conceptual schemes. The question is not “creation or evolution” but how much of each one and which came first? It’s easy to see how creation could come first; it’s harder to see how evolution could. The standard retort is that abiogenesis (the beginning of evolutionary life) is a different subject from evolutionary biology but that does not answer how evolution could start. Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell is a further challenge to the view that evolution could come first.

November 2010

The nature of creation

‘Nature’ is the world conceived without reference to God. A natural rock is a rock as if it exists on its own or as part of a world that exists on its own. It has no absolute origin. Its only ‘origin’ is from other rocks, other existing substances. It is all transformation. This presupposes a metaphysics of materialism.

‘Creation’ is the world conceived as made by God from nothing & dependent on God for its continuation. Something of the nature of creation can be gained from the attributes of God. We can expect orderliness for God is a God of order. We can expect some reflection of purpose for God surely had a purpose in creating the world.

‘Natural history’ is history (conceived with reference to God and) with particular reference to the non-human world.

Creationists do not ‘add God’ to the natural world. There is no natural world without God. Creationists take off the blinders of naturalism that prevent the acknowledgement of the reality of God.

The laws of nature are conceived by naturalists as laws without a legislator. The laws of nature are conceived by creationists as laws created by God. They are laws of creation.

Naturalistic science is sometimes considered merely methodologically naturalistic because it avoids ontological commitments rather than affirming an ontological naturalistic universe. This is a sham. There is nothing to recommend ontological minimalism beyond an academic exercise. Moreover, the results of naturalistic science are presented as conclusions about reality, not merely conditional products subject to further vetting by others.

A naturalistic science needs to justify why there are not chaotic, non-causal events. It has excluded these arbitrarily. It promotes deterministic states arbitrarily. It is open from below, not above.

2008

Approaches to origins

Let’s distinguish three approaches to the study of universal origins:

Philosophical naturalism with natural science

Biblical creationism with creation science or Philosophical creationism with universal history

Autonomous Humanism: naturalism with natural history and science

Read more →