Posted 22 November 2010 - 06:25 AM
I liked that idea someone suggested earlier in the thread, about how everything was created with age, according to the Genesis account. It seems like something one could make more of, if one had the time and inclination.
At the moment, I can only conclude that the Genesis account, literally interpreted, and the account of the origins of the universe according to science do indeed contradict each other. This is not only with respect to absolute measurements of time, like how old the earth is, or how old our species is, but also relative chronology. Perhaps the most obvious example is the relative chronology of the creation of the sun, moon and stars on the one hand, and plant life on the other. The Genesis account clearly puts the creation of plants before the creation of the sun, but scientific reconstruction clearly puts it after.
How to resolve the contradiction, I simply don't know. I find it curious that creationists often use two arguments against evolution and an old earth, which actually cancel each other out. They say that our fallen reason is incapable of ascertaining the true history of creation. Fair enough, but then they go on and talk about how unscientific evolutionism and the old earth is anyway, using all the "scientific" arguments of the creation scientists. Didn't they just say human reason can't ascertain the true age of the earth? So why are they turning to scientific reasoning to bolster their case?
The other thing that troubles me is that no one, as far as I can tell, has really gone through all the patristic literature (I know, there's a lot of it), and worked out whether or not there are certain unchanging principles according to which the Fathers used and interpreted the science of their day. I see a lot of proof-texting by one side or the other, purporting to show that the Fathers either support an evolutionary, old-age earth, or a young earth creationist one, but I don't see any attempt to interpret these quotations according to general principles of the "theology-science interface", if you can so call it.
For example, if a Father says that the six days of creation were literal 24-hour days, am I to interpret that in the same way I interpret his references to the four elements of matter? Since, as far as I know, there are no theological objections to the modern periodic table of elements, which lists over 100 of them, I assume I am free to reject the Father's understanding of physics and chemistry as outdated, and as not impinging on his theology. What is so different about the Father's understanding of the short time in which it took creation to occur? Or indeed, concerning the immutable nature of biological species? Both of these ideas have also been superseded by modern science, and yet frequently I see arguments against the old earth or evolution based solely on the fact that various pre-modern Fathers, who had no worldly knowledge of modern science (I am not considering prophecy here), also happened to believe in pre-modern ideas.
I have a hunch that the answer, or a road that might lead to the answer, lies in a more metaphysical understanding of the Genesis account on the one hand, and scientific reconstruction on the other. Genesis speaks of a time and place when the world as it was, and the world as it ought to have been, were one and the same. After the Fall, however, the world as it is, and the world as it ought to be, are different, infinitely different. All we can see is the world as it is. We can internally reconstruct a history of the origins of the world as it is, but without knowledge of the world as it ought to be, we cannot comparatively reconstruct the ancestor of these two worlds, i.e. we cannot reconstruct Paradise (I am using terms from comparative historical linguistics deliberately). I believe that is what St Nikolai Velimirovic, and other modern Orthodox critics of science are getting at. To gain that knowledge of the world as it ought to be, and not just as it is, you need to undertake the road to Paradise that has been paved for us by Christ.