iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Tag Archives: Creation

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

Dissident scientists

There is a curious paradox about the science community. On the one hand scientists have a reputation for independent thinking but on the other hand the science community likes to present a solid front. The latter is closer to the truth: most scientists are conformists. It is well known from the history of science that dissent is not welcomed in the scientific community. Dissidents are roundly condemned and ostracized — until they turn out to be correct. Then history is rewritten from the perspective of the new paradigm (it’s called a Whig history).

Also, along with so many aspects of the modern world, science has become increasingly politicized. Since much research funding is government controlled, it’s not surprising that politics gets involved. So perhaps we should pay more attention to dissident scientists. Below are some links.

Big-bang Dissidents

Global Warming Dissidents

Goethean Scientists

Darwin Doubters

Intelligent Design Scientists

Creation Scientists

Approaches to apologetics

First, for those who want an introduction to apologetics, I suggest this video by Dr. R.C. Sproul on Defending Your Faith, lecture 1: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/defending-your-faith/introduction-2/.  Note in the second part he addresses Greek philosophy.

One way to compare different approaches is to look at what they consider believers and unbelievers have in common and how to build on that.

(1) Believers and unbelievers have a common humanity.

With this approach one does not address questions about the existence of God, different worldviews, how scientific evidence relates to the Bible, etc., there is no recourse but to preach the Gospel again or go on to the next audience.

(2) Believers and unbelievers have a common humanity and also live in a common world.

With this approach one can address questions about science by showing them how scientific evidence may be understood to support the Bible.  But questions about the existence of God or different worldviews cannot be addressed because the ability to reason is not sufficiently held in common.

(3) Believers and unbelievers have a common humanity and also a common ability to reason.

With this approach one can address questions about the existence of God by showing them how reasonable it is to believe that God exists.  One can also address a worldview which excludes God by showing them the inadequacy of such a worldview.  But questions about how science supports the Bible cannot be addressed because the world of science is not sufficiently common.

(4) Believers and unbelievers have a common humanity, a common ability to reason, and live in a common world.

With this approach one can address the most questions – questions about the existence of God, a worldview which excludes God, questions about science, etc.  One has the most resources in common with which to remove impediments to the Gospel.

I support approach (4) because I think Christians do have that much in common with unbelievers and because it gives the apologist the most tools to address the most questions.  The other approaches lack tools to address some questions and so impediments to the Gospel may remain.

July 2014

The church and the world

At least from the time of Constantine to the Middle Ages, the Church was involved in the world – i.e., public affairs and endeavors such as philosophy.  The Reformation was partly a reaction against this, refocusing the church on spiritual matters and leaving worldly matters to others, that is, to Christians outside the church’s official structure.  The highest authority for the church was the Bible but outside the church the prince or king ruled.  This was reflected for example in rejecting marriage as a sacrament – Protestant churches did not even perform weddings for several centuries.

Protestants were content to let natural philosophers (scientists) do their thing though the Catholic church remained sensitive to the philosophical and theological implications of natural philosophy – that’s what got Galileo in trouble.  The Bible was the authority concerning spiritual matters but science became the authority for knowledge of the natural world, as the state was the authority for political matters.  Gradually, Christian countries departed from Christianity because the church left the world to others.

Protestants inspired social movements such as the abolition of slavery but it was a matter of Christians influencing society rather than the church directly involved in social matters.  Then in the early 20th century the social gospel refocused liberal/modernist Protestants on society, while conservative/fundamentalist Protestants reaffirmed the spiritual focus of the church.  In the later 20th century conservatives started to get interested in what was happening in the world since it was affecting them, too – Darwinism, abortion, etc.

Where does that leave us today?  Creationists are surprised that Christians won’t let the Bible be the final authority for science.  But the separation of the Bible from matters of the social or natural world has a long history.  Evangelical churches are focused on spiritual matters and leave social and natural matters to others, who are often non-Christians.  Catholics are still smarting from the Galileo affair and have been reluctant to criticize scientists.

I conclude that creationism will make slow headway in and outside the church until there is a spiritual/philosophical movement that relates spiritual matters to natural matters.  To make a military analogy, para-church organizations such as creationists have are like special forces that help with fighting but it is the army that takes over territory, as only the church can re-take society and science for Christ.

May 2014

 

Hypernatural science

Although IDers avoid talking about the designer, the critics of ID “know” that they are trying to sneak God into science.  After all, who else could the designer be?  The critics of YECs reject bringing God into science because God is a wild card that could make any hypothesis true.  We seem locked in a battle of naturalism without God and divine supernaturalism.  Is there anything in between these extremes?

In fact there is.  We need only look at traditional Christian metaphysics.  The intellect is something that is not natural – each intellect has to be created by God – but neither is it supernatural, that is, God’s direct intervention.  We can call the intellect “hypernatural.”  Note: the intellect is often called “mind” or “intelligence” but these words have other associations.

Who has intellect?  Humans, angels, and God.  God’s intellect is not created.  Angels have intellects but not bodies, though they may take the appearance of bodies.  The intellect is what most distinguishes humans from animals.  The intellect allows humans to understand something of the thoughts of God.  (What about “spirit”?  As I understand it, a spirit includes intellect but also the ability to believe and have communion with other spirits.)

The creation of primal matter is supernatural – the direct action of God creating from nothing.  But once primal matter is created, it needs to be ordered according to some design.  Is the design of the natural world supernatural, too?  No, or at least not necessarily.  Humans can understand much or potentially all of the natural world by use of their intellect.  So the design of the natural world is hypernatural.

Life is hypernatural because the operation of physical laws are not enough to originate life on their own.  So the study of life is a hypernatural science.  Hypernatural sciences are those that study the design of the natural world or hypernatural phenomena such as life.

What does a hypernatural science look like?  Because the human intellect is hypernatural, analogies are possible between how a human might design the universe and how the universe was in fact designed.  However, the intellect that designed the universe must have been much greater than a human intellect, yet this would be a difference of degree rather than kind.

It is significant that the first human, Adam, named all the animals.  His intellect was clearly up to the task.

The hypernatural world is limited.  What is hypernatural cannot create from nothing, nor does it necessarily have the power to implement its designs.  Only God can implement any design.  Who designed the hypernatural world?  Only God could do that.

April 2014

A reverse engineering argument

Elliott Sober is a professor of philosophy who has written in support of evolutionary biology.  I’m going through his book “Evidence and Evolution.”

Sober argues for the superiority of the likelihood approach. The  “law if likelihood” states that evidence E favors hypothesis H1 over H2 if and only if the probability of E given H1 is greater than the probability of E given H2; i.e., P(E | H1) > P(E | H2).  Note that this is a comparative approach; it only works when comparing two specific hypotheses.

The surprising thing about this law is that the probability of any hypothesis is irrelevant — it’s the probability of the evidence that counts.  Almost all probability arguments ignore this but Sober thinks Paley’s watch argument is a likelihood argument.  Sober comes close to accepting Paley’s argument but stops short for this reason:  it lacks independent knowledge about what a creator intended.

In other words, it begs the question to say that the creator made the eye to see because we find that the eye sees.  We would need independent knowledge of what the creator intended for the eye before considering whether or not that’s what the eye does.

Christians typically say that God’s intentions are inscrutable or known only generally.  Aristotle tried to discern purpose (final cause) by philosophical means but didn’t get very far, and teleology got a bad name.  Is there another approach?

I see two approaches. One is to find passages of scripture that show specific intentions God has for the creation.  For example, Genesis 1:26 says mankind is to rule over the fish, birds, and livestock on the earth.  What do we observe?  Mankind rules over the fish, birds, and livestock.

However, Genesis assumes the existence of God.  Can we argue without this assumption?  Another approach is to reverse engineer features of the world such as organs like eyes.  What is the design problem that led to the eye being designed as it appears?  For every feature of the world, we could come up with some design scenario.  We would include the possibility that something went wrong and that the design we observe is less than optimal or even perverse.

This would be quite a project, not unlike the evolutionary project of coming up with just so stories about how features could possibly have arisen through evolution.  We would match every evolutionary story with a creation design story.  The likelihood argument then is which hypothesis confers greater probability on what we observe?  The answer is design for several reasons:  (1) even evolutionists agree that life appears designed, (2) complex features such as watches are designed so it would be expected that other complex features we observe are also designed, and (3) there exists a particular design problem for each feature observed.

March 2014

Turning the issue around

Creationists are allowing their opponents to frame issues backwards, which puts us on the defensive.  The real question they’re trying to answer is, How can modern science fit with the Bible without distorting it?  Their opponents keep asking the reverse: How can the Bible fit with modern science?  That puts the pressure on the defenders of the Bible.

For example, the starlight and time issue should not be a question of “how can the Bible fit with modern astronomy?”  It should be, “how can modern astronomy fit with the Bible without distorting it?”  The pressure should be on astronomers to figure it out.  It is not “our” problem but “their” problem (recognizing that some creationists are also astronomers).

This arises because modern science works independently of the Bible — or any other discipline except for mathematics.  The independence of science is carefully and strongly guarded by science communities.  And no feedback loop from outside of science is accepted.

Oppose the independence of science?  Now that’s controversial.

November 2014

The word “creation”

The word “creation” is used by non-creationists in a minimal sense.  The existence of the universe is explained as the creation of God.  This is the core meaning that all monotheists accept.  But what about the essence and nature of the universe — was that created, too?  The success of physics has led to a minimalist version of creation here.  It is claimed that “a few simple rules” is all the essence needed for the present universe to happen.  The universe of today is only remotely created.

Creationists use the word “creation” in a maximal sense:  almost everything is the result of creation.  Every variety of plant is created, even though we know that artificial or natural selection have a more direct bearing on them than what happened thousands of years ago.  Every beautiful or amazing aspect of the universe is ascribed to creation and every ugly or diseased aspect of the universe is ascribed to the fall, yet no objective criteria are provided to delineate these differences.

In short, one group under-uses the word “creation” and another group (us) over-uses the word “creation”.  This doesn’t foster communication or understanding between people from different backgrounds  A more precise meaning for the word “creation” that is between these extremes would help.

October 2014

Locally true but globally false

Naturalism assumes that what is true in local places or times must be true for all places and times — after all, isn’t that Occam’s razor?  But it does not follow.  For example, the earth seems flat in each locality but globally it is not.  In mathematics there are many examples where what is locally true is globally false.

This reinforces the need for creationists to emphasize the global picture and not get side-tracked on the local details.  The global creation, the global flood, and the global confusion of tongues are the three keys of history.

July 2014

What Jason Rosenhouse finds

Jason Rosenhouse’s “Among the Creationists” (Oxford, 2012) is a journalistic-style exploration of “creationist subculture” by a mathematician who claims to be open-minded but skeptical.  The reality is he’s an atheistic evolutionist looking for weaknesses in creationism while trying to understand these “insular” people.  It’s still a good read but what are the weaknesses he finds?

p51 “Even suggesting the concept of an infallible source of information about nature entails the abandonment of the scientific method.” In other words science must be primary.  This contradicts an earlier assertion (p37): “Scientists think of evolution as a useful theory, not as an all-encompassing worldview.”

p53 “Worse, creationists tend to be inconsistent.  First, they point to some complex adaptation and loudly proclaim it absurd to think it evolved gradually.  Then, when scientists dutifully uncover likely precursors and plausible gradualist scenarios, they say it is trivial to make up a story.”  Apart from the spin, there is something to this.  I think we underestimate the evolutionary imagination.  They really can imagine nature doing everything.  After all, Nature is their god. [?]

Read more →

Time

For evolution time and change are critical.  If there is insufficient time for evolution, it fails.  If time and change don’t explain everything, evolution fails.  The backbone of evolution is its dating methods.  Time is the key to evolution.

But time is not a critical variable for creationists.  Creation is basically the same as it was in the beginning.  Variations and catastrophes are secondary to the constancy of creation.  After scientists understand what doesn’t change, then they can fit change into that framework.

Creationists should not follow evolutionists in thinking that time and chronology are the key to science.  They are not.  Invariance is the key to science and it always has been.  That’s why real science studies physical laws and their consequences.

June 2014