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How old is the earth?


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#81 Kusanagi

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 12:46 PM

Hi! According to the Hebrew calendar, the earth should be [roughly] 6,158 years old.


However in the Jewish Chronicle newpspaer in UK they list the year as 5000 and few years.

I believe they start counting from after the flood.

St Isaac the Syrian believes the world is 7000 years old at least.

#82 Ryan

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 01:29 PM

I would earnestly entreat everyone here, before fretting about Darwinism, the age of the earth, the days of creation, etc., to just familiarize yourselves with the basic Orthodox Christian natural philosophy. Much of the worrying about whether this or that teaching is "literal" or not would dissipate when we realize that the visible world is not "literal" from the Orthodox standpoint- it is meant to be a gateway to contemplating heavenly realities, a mirror, a shadow.

The basic Orthodox approach to contemplating nature is very nicely outlined toward the end of St. Nicodemus' Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, in the section "On the Spiritual and Proper Delights of the Mind." St. Nicodemus enjoins us to contemplate "the reasons of creation, that is, the eternal purposes of God in creating and providing for his creatures, both the visible and the invisible." At the same time he warns the spiritually immature from overly occupying themselves with natural contemplation: "When the mind is still passionate it cannot see the immaterial and spiritual reasons hidden in the shapes and beauty of physical nature and the passionate and irrational imagination takes precedence to formulate these reasons passionately according to its own standards. Thus instead of selecting from this physical experience knowledge and reasons that are spiritual, such persons select only mere shapes and passions and passionate idols. And instead of rising through nature to the spiritual and incorruptible nature of the Creator so as to marvel at this and to love God and be immersed in him, they remain on the physical level of admiring and being filled by the corruptible beauty of nature only, so as to virtually worship the creation and not the Creator- a condition which many naturalists of the past and of today are suffering."

Even more forceful for today is the long essay The Universe as Symbols and Signs by St. Nikolai Velimirovic, which was just reprinted by St. Tikhon's press- I would highly recommend that everyone read this work as a key for framing current debates about revelation and its relationship to modern science. St. Nikolai compares the created world to an alphabet. Those who study the creation in itself, and do not penetrate to the spiritual meanings behind it, are like children playing with letters who are ignorant of what letters signify or how to read them. This is as much true of todays materialist natural philosophers ("scientists") as it was of the pagans. "It is clear from this that whoever reads the natural without knowing the spiritual content and significance of what he has read, reads death, sees death, appropriates death." (p.11) "Therefore," he says later, " every literal reading of nature leads finally to idolatry." (p.36)

It is also true of the "Biblical literalists" who have a crude and opaque conception of the natural world, which in turn gives them a crude conception of the spiritual world. Young earth creationism, old earth creationism, theistic evolution, all miss the point by accepting the modern natural philosophy which is grounded in dualism, which divorces the visible world from the invisible world and proposes to study nature in isolation.

#83 Jonathan Gress

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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.

#84 Michael Stickles

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 01:49 PM

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.


Well, getting rid of the normal way of "literally" looking at Genesis would be the first step, I'd imagine. That way of interpreting it has some interesting internal problems. For example, let's first look at Genesis 1, verses 3-5 (emphasis added):

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.


Now look at verses 14-19 (emphasis added):

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.


So - if God separated light from darkness on the first day, what's the point of creating something to do it on the fourth day? Wasn't that already done? Or is there something else going on here?

I've read that Hebrew verb tenses often have to be figured out from context, and I'm wondering if we have something like that going on here - perhaps the lights in the sky had already been created "to separate light from darkness", but were just not fully revealed from the perspective of Earth until day four. Or perhaps just the sun and moon had been created, and were now joined by the creation (or revelation) of the stars. Given this possibility, if a creation sequence similar to that currently postulated by scientists was revealed to Moses by God in a vision, I can see the whole thing playing out before his sight in a manner consistent with the descriptions in Genesis 1. God's purpose would not primarily be to reveal scientific truth, but rather to reveal Himself, and I think that's got to be priority one in interpreting Genesis.

In Christ,
Michael

#85 Jesse Dominick

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 01:53 PM

dating the earth from the Scriptures is much older than the Venerable Bede. The earliest I am aware of is St. Theophilus of Antioch, in his work to Autolycus:

III.XVIII literal timeline
And from the foundation of the world the whole time is thus traced, so far as its main epochs are concerned. From the creation of the world to the deluge were 2242 years. And from the deluge to the time when Abraham our forefather begat a son, 1036 years. And from Isaac, Abraham's son, to the time when the people dwelt with Moses in the desert, 660 years. And from the death of Moses and the rule of Joshua the son of Nun, to the death of the patriarch David, 498 years. And from the death of David and the reign of Solomon to the sojourning of the people in the land of Babylon, 518 years 6 months 10 days. And from the government of Cyrus to the death of the Emperor Aurelius Verus, 744 years. All the years from the creation of the world amount to a total of 5698 years, and the odd months and days.


and there is much more information about the dating of the creation according to the Fathers and the Church http://www.orthodoxw...ne_Creation_Era

#86 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 07:53 AM

Interesting interpretation, Michael. I don't really buy your interpretation of the relative chronology of creation, however. I recall that the traditional "literal" exegesis held the light created on day one to be diffused throughout the sky, and that the purpose of creating the sun on the fourth day was to concentrate that light in a single heavenly body. Moreover, as the passage clearly states, the main purpose of creating heavenly bodies of light was to serve as markers of times and seasons. So the position of the sun tells you what time during the solar year you are in, and the phase of the moon tells you what time during the month. The stars also serve to mark seasons and places.

If you really want to stretch the Mosaic account to fit scientific reconstruction of history, you could argue that in the early phases of life on earth, when there were only plants and perhaps very primitive animals, the atmosphere of earth would have been so moist that the sun, moon and stars would be mostly hidden by clouds. Therefore, as you suggest, the fourth day represents the vanishing of this dense moisture and the appearance of the sun, moon and stars as regular fixtures in the sky. As I say, though, I think this is a stretch.

Stretching Genesis to fit modern science seems to me a futile exercise. If you believe that any non-literal interpretation of Genesis undermines all of Christianity, then just accept Genesis as it is and don't bother about science. If, like me, you can't bring yourself to deny the soundness of modern science's reconstruction of early history, but also can't bring yourself to deny Christianity, you must admit that the Mosaic account is not scientifically accurate, and whatever purpose it has is purely spiritual. As I said before, my take on it (and I don't insist that everyone follow me on this) is that the purpose of the Genesis account of creation, Paradise and our first parents is to describe for us the world as it ought to be, a world which, in some mysterious way, we have fallen away from by our own transgressions, both individually and collectively as the human race. The message is that it is possible for the world as it is to become the world as it ought to be, but this is only possible by the Grace of God. I can't rationalize how we can say that we have already fallen away from that union of 'is' and 'ought', since according to rational science there never was a world as it ought to be. By our own reason, we can only see the world as it is. Knowledge of the world as it ought to be is given to us solely through revelation. The other message is that the world as it ought to be is in some mysterious way more real than the world as it is, but this paradox cannot be resolved by our reason, but by God's Grace revealing the truth to us.

#87 Nick Katich

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 01:55 PM

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 would suggest that a good starting point is to read St. Gregory of Nyssa's "Apologetic Defense of the Hexaemeron" which is readily available on the internet. In short, his brother, St. Basil, gave a series of homilies on the Six Days from whence derives the majority view of the Six Days. Gregory actually had problems with his brother's explanation. Although he defends the analysis, to a point, he really corrects the problematics raised by his brother. Gregory actually posits that that the total plan of creation actually originated in the mind of God (so to spedak) and that all of creation instantly came into being through His Will. He then goes on to explain that the sequential Six Days narrated in Genesis is an effort not to explain how things came into being or any sequence of creation (since it was simultaneous) but to explain the interdependence of the various components of creation. It is fascinating reading and a marvelous work too often forgetten by theologians and other scholars. His argument is grounded in great part on the fact that in Greek, Genesis begins with not "In the beginning" but rather "In the Kephale" which could be read as in the head or in the mind.

In is interesting to observe that according to the Big Bang theory, the universe came into being in a simultaneous instant and everything that formed over time inexorably contained the plan of its eventual being. I'm a non-Aristotelean, but his teleological arguments can provide a path to non-contradiction.

Edited by Father David Moser, 23 November 2010 - 02:39 PM.


#88 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 02:40 PM

My understanding is that there is no completed action in Hebrew verbs.

#89 Michael Stickles

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 03:34 PM

If, like me, you can't bring yourself to deny the soundness of modern science's reconstruction of early history, but also can't bring yourself to deny Christianity, you must admit that the Mosaic account is not scientifically accurate, and whatever purpose it has is purely spiritual.


I really can't agree with that statement.

Genesis was not written from the western, linear mindset. "Scientifically accurate" cannot and does not mean the same thing in Moses as it does in Archimedes or Newton, since the way of looking at the world is very different (that also sums up the problem I have with many standard Creationist pronouncements).

I also can't agree that the purpose of Genesis is purely spiritual - if by that phrase one means that it has no relevance to the physical proceses of creation. The purpose of Genesis - as well as everything else in the Scriptures - is for the salvation of man, so in that sense it is "purely spiritual". But that says nothing one way or the other about scientific accuracy.

This is not "stretching" Genesis. The term implies that the text has some innate and obvious rigid interpretation which must be wrestled with to make it fit another shape of facts. But the eastern mind and the Hebrew language allow for considerable flexibility in looking at the "facts" underlying a text, and which way is the right way must often be established from a context outside the text itself.

This brings to mind a time when I was studying Sun Tzu's Art of War in Chinese, and realized that one passage I was looking at could be interpreted at least six different ways - and at least three of them were probably "right". I don't know if Hebrew language and thought are quite that flexible, but the approach to reality definitely comes from a different angle than we're used to in the west.

ADDENDUM: I should probably clarify, though, that if Jonathan's statement is altered to read "the Mosaic account is not scientifically accurate in the normal western sense of that term" then I'd agree.

#90 Nick Katich

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 03:39 PM

Owen: take a look at http://www.ancient-h...7_lesson03.html regarding Hebrew verbs.

#91 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 05:46 AM

Thanks, Nick Katich! The only thing is I'm not sure about the Greek Genesis using the word "kephale". The Greek church's textus receptus certainly uses "arche", i.e. "beginning".

http://www.myriobibl...p?book=1&page=1

#92 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 05:55 AM

Thanks for attempting to clarify terms, Michael. Yes, I meant by "scientific" what we in the modern West think of as "scientific".

And I think your point is sound about not excluding the material aspect of the Mosaic account of creation. If the conflict between modern science's account of the origins of everything and the Mosaic account are not strictly speaking contradictory, assuming they are speaking in different terms, then certainly they are paradoxical, because it isn't clear how to define the terms in such a way that the contradiction is resolved. It appears they are both true at the same time, but how this can be the case is something for future generations (if ever) to work out.

Nick's reference to St Gregory's treatise, and his belief that creation was instantaneous and that the "six days" were purely symbolic, intended to illustrate the synchronic structure of creation, rather than the diachronic developments, is fascinating and I will certainly try to look into it. I suppose before I start I can't help but recall that St Gregory at other times was known to veer in some of his works from the patristic consensus, namely in his acceptance of Origen's "apokatastasis" doctrine. So it is possible that St Gregory does not represent the consensus here, either.

#93 Nick Katich

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 01:26 PM

I suppose before I start I can't help but recall that St Gregory at other times was known to veer in some of his works from the patristic consensus, namely in his acceptance of Origen's "apokatastasis" doctrine. So it is possible that St Gregory does not represent the consensus here, either.


Johnathan: I'm not sure it is charitable to think that St. Gregory veered from the patristic consensus. I'm certain that there were many areas of theological thought were there was no patristic consensus. Such is always the case with "speculative" theology, so called. It is easier to talk about what has been revealed than to talk about the eschaton which has not yet occurred. On the "apokatastasis" issue, it first originated with Clement of Alexandria and subsequently speculated upon by Origen. St. Gregory was indeed an adherent of aspects of what we commonly call "apokatastasis" but he did not go quite as far as Origen, in particular to the salvation of Satan himself. That being said, the Emperor, in his anathemas wanted to condemn Origen specifically for this doctrine. However, a careful study of the anathemas actually adopted by the 5th Council against Origen would appear to indicate that the 5th Council went contrary to the Emperor's wishes on that point. Thank the Lord that all theological speculation has not been condemned or thought might stop. There is an interesting article on Theandros that suggest that Maximos the Confessor also held an "apoktastasistic" view. You can find it here: http://www.theandros...estoration.html It has never been suggested that Maximos veered. In fact, he is considered by many as the benchmark of Orthodoxy. In fact, the restoration of the Beginning at the Escaton is a view widely held in Orthodoxy (as long as we stop short of Satan). Since we don't know exactly how the creation of the "angels" fits in with the creation of the physical world, it does indeed become difficult to speculate in that area.

#94 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 06:25 PM

I only thought St Gregory may not represent the consensus because after reading Fr Seraphim Rose's exposition of the patristic interpretation of Genesis, I believe he made a very strong case that the consensus involved quite a literal understanding of the six days. This is the long essay available here:

http://orthodoxinfo...._kalomiros.aspx

As I said before, I don't know quite how to reconcile this consensus with the theories of modern science. I know that elsewhere Fr Seraphim addressed the science issue, but I understand that there he relied heavily on the "creation science" of Henry Morris and other Protestant literalists, and I am not confident in the evidence or reasoning that creation science brings to bear on the matter. I don't find I can fault the mainstream scientific literature in terms of evidence or reasoning, even after reading the "intelligent design" literature, which focuses more on the failure of mainstream science to explain everything about origins than about constructing a coherent creationist theory. Just because evolution can't explain everything doesn't mean it doesn't explain most things. Theories that can explain everything usually have no explanatory value, because they don't predict what can not occur.

The main reason I find evolution inherently plausible is because species don't appear to be as fixed in reality as traditionally thought. Within each species there is typically much variation, you can see the evolution of races, breeds and subspecies in real time ("microevolution"), you have the example of hybrids in many plant species and some animal species (yes, animal hybrids are usually sterile, but plant hybrids are usually not), the fossil record indicates a progression in biological complexity from the earliest to the latest strata (despite occasional "gaps"), you have vestigial anatomy, "junk DNA" and other functionless parts of organisms that don't make much sense if you believe every species was specially created by an omniscient and omnipotent intelligence, but do make sense if you believe they were inherited from older organisms in which they did have a function, you have lateral "gene-swapping" in many kinds of bacteria, and so on. The concept of the fixed species is easier to explain as the product of our own tendency to abstract and categorize from a spectrum of data than as an accurate statement about biology.

As for the age of the earth, the uniformitarian principle in geology is simply irreconcilable with an earth that is 7500 years old, or with a Great Flood.

So I am left to conclude that Genesis is meant to be understood literally according to the Fathers, and yet the science has failed to support the literal interpretation. This could well be because the early days of the universe lie beyond the ability of human reason to perceive, in which case we have no need of "creation science". We just have to accept that Scripture reveals one account of origins, and our own powers of reasoning reveal another.

Finally, even if we accept that St Gregory's concept of instantaneous creation is reconcilable with the patristic consensus, I wouldn't extrapolate from this that St Gregory would have accepted Darwinian evolution, old earth geology and so forth. It comes down to a difference between creation of the world in a single instant, and creation over a period of six 24-hour days.

#95 Evan

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 08:00 PM

It is a given that we must insist that the material world really was created by God for the same reason that we insist that God really became material. Matter matters. Matter is good. Salvation was wrought in the midst of the earth, and it will be complete when our bodies rise from the dust.

I've heard it said by certain Orthodox theologians that this is ALL that we need to insist upon. That God really created the world, and it doesn't really matter how. The trouble for me is that such an affirmation seems perfectly consistent with a Deistic model of creation that doesn't sit comfortably with the unique shaping and molding we see in Genesis, which depicts the creation of man as something deliberate and set apart from the creation of rocks and plants and animals. Indeed, it depicts the creation of animals as something deliberate and set apart from the creation of rocks and plants. So far as I can tell, Darwin rejected outright this model of creation, and saw it as far less noble and majestic than a model of creation that brought multiplicity out of a common primordial soup.

I'm still working with this issue myself, so I don't pretend to have any answers, but I think that it's important to come to terms with what Darwin actually said, as opposed to rest content in the notion that faith and science are not necessarily at odds. Of course they're not. The Fathers depended upon the science of their day. But certainly they CAN be at odds, and it is my hope that, God willing, someone who has thoroughly immersed themselves in Darwin's work will undertake the task of confronting these issues directly in light of the Church's abiding witness.

In Christ,
Evan

#96 Nick Katich

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 08:29 PM

Johnathan:

Consider the following:

1. The Origin of Species should properly be called the Origin of Some Species. In his book, Darwin speaks of the fact that the evolution of species that he describes originally derived from a handfull of pre-existent species. About 7 to 10, if I recall correctly. With respect to where those pre-existent came from, Darwin explicitly says that he did not know, that we will probably never know and that God only knows. I'm serious. He actually said that!

2. About 7,000 years ago, quite suddenly, with no evidence of a slow evolutionary process, a special animal suddenly appeared and in significant numbers. It was Man as we know him. He suddenly appeared with his (ours) rational brain fully developed and he immediately began to use it inventing the wheel, stone tools, grain agriculture, etc. Where did he come from? No missing link has ever been discovered. Although there are some similarities physically with other bi-ped primates, there is no similarity in the nature of the brain. I'm reminded of the opening scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey where the ape like creature looks at a leg bone and, before he even puts it to the test, his eyes go wide open. He just out of the blue has an insight: i.e. he can grasp it in his hand and use it as a tool and weapon. That's how suddenly rational man came into history. I do not overlook the fact that science dates his appearance at about 7,000 years ago.

3. Louis Agassiz was Darwin's contemporary. After doing his reseach in the Swiss Alps and some other parts of Europe, he fathered the principal theories upon which all of geology is built and, it is geology which gave Darwin the necessary time element for his theories to evolve (pun intended). In 1846, Agassiz came to the United States and did further research here. To him the Rocky Mountains looked like they were of recent origin. Other research further put his theories to the test. Finally, after completing his further studies here, he repudiated all of his theories. Yet, the Royal Academy then and geologists today refuse to even look into the basis for his repudiation. They merely accept his original theories as their foundation and continue to built an edifice upon a foundation declared to be defective by the one who poured it.

The Big Bang of instantaneous and simultaneous creation, teleology, evolution and 7000 years ago, by the breath of the Spirit, the sudden appearance of rational Man. I could easily live with that notion. Forgive me. A little George Gamow, some Aristotle (ugh!) and a little Aquinas (yuk!), and a reconciliation theory is born!

#97 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 04:43 AM

Your assertion that science dates the appearance of humanity no earlier than 7000 years ago is completely untrue, unless by "science" you are referring only to creation science. If you want to know what mainstream science believes about human origins, you can start with this page:

http://www.archaeolo...homosapiens.htm

Whether we trace all species back to one species or to seven, we still have challenged the biblical notion that every single distinct species today was created separately from the other.

It's not as if geological research stopped with Agassiz. Perhaps you should read up how modern geologists date rocks before asserting that the whole of modern geology is based on false premises.

As I say, science says one thing, Genesis another. If you want to challenge what science has to say on scientific grounds, you will have to familiarize yourself with the scientific literature first, rather than argue against creationist straw men. You can argue that no matter how good the reasoning or the evidence of modern science, we must prefer Scripture to human reason, but then you've already conceded that human reason alone has no choice but to accept an old earth and evolution.

#98 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 04:57 AM

I think Evan is onto something. Biologists generally only deal with how different species evolve from common ancestors, not with how living organisms evolved from non-living matter. Most scientists who do work on that believe that life must have arisen from chemical processes on earth, although a few fringe scientists have put forward the idea that life came here from outer space. Of course, that only begs the question of how life arose on the source planet. But yes, the two are separate. The biochemist Michael Behe, for instance, does not believe life could have evolved from inert matter, but he does accept that life evolved by natural selection after it first arose by whatever creative process.

I'd like to throw a thought out there and see what you guys think. Genesis says that God created man from dust. According to mainstream science, of course, all life, including humans, evolved by chemical processes from inert matter. Also, evolutionary biology does not distinguish one species from another in absolute terms. A species can evolve into a very different kind of organism, but there is no single moment of transition. The transition is always gradual. The distinction between species is only apparent when comparing different chronological stages in the evolution of the organism, or when comparing two populations that have taken different evolutionary paths. Therefore, you could at a stretch say that the gradual evolution of humanity through successive stages of inert matter, simple organisms and complex organisms fits the Genesis account. I know I objected earlier to "stretching" Genesis to fit science, but I thought this idea was interesting.

#99 Theophrastus

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 08:51 PM

Therefore, you could at a stretch say that the gradual evolution of humanity through successive stages of inert matter, simple organisms and complex organisms fits the Genesis account. I know I objected earlier to "stretching" Genesis to fit science, but I thought this idea was interesting.


I'm sympathetic with the idea that Genesis broadly reflects evolutionary lineages, but I would still, like you did earlier, object to "stretching" Genesis to fit science.

For instance, in Genesis 1, land plants appear before the life in the waters. Yet, evolutionarily speaking, life evolved (or so the current consensus among biologists tells us) in an aquatic (marine, most likely) environment.

I think if one understands Genesis as describing a world-view very different from that of modern science, then that would in fact increase one's wonder and awe of God's creative powers.

#100 Kenneth Evans

Kenneth Evans

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Posted 18 December 2010 - 03:43 PM

...For instance, in Genesis 1, land plants appear before the life in the waters. Yet, evolutionarily speaking, life evolved (or so the current consensus among biologists tells us) in an aquatic (marine, most likely) environment...


There was a throw-away line from some 90s comic book -- "what if it's all true?". (Grant Morrison, I think).

What if Genesis is big enough to metabolize any and all scientific discoveries? The discoveries may reflect the Truth of Genesis, and Genesis need not dispute the truth of science. The story is what's True. The science is also more or less true*.

"T"rue and "t"rue are two different things, and not mutually exclusive.
Magnetism is true. Evolution is true. Love is True. Sacrifice is True.

*Science is an ongoing process, though, and old theories die out when careful observation of nature shows that new explanations are needed.




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