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A new "Monkey Bill"
  • SimonSimon June 2012
    Further to my slightly more robust posting above, I think both croc & Anthony's position proves the point that YEC/ID beliefs are held for theological NOT scientific reasons. Croc shows it by falling back to comments about "faith in God" whilst we know from a number of previous threads that Anthony is swayed by his theological understanding. I apologise if I implied that such reasoning is irrational or imbecilic. The YEC/ID conclusion is entirely logical if one comes from a certain theological background. There is an interesting conversation to be had about alternative theological interpretations.

    What I do think is irrational or imbecilic is saying that YEC/ID is supported by scientific evidence. Neither theory is, and when YECs/IDers make this argument they often make fools of themselves - see the recent Meyer thread and the nonsense he writes in his latest books. It is for this reason that I cannot take seriously anyone who argues for this sort of position FROM SCIENCE. YEC/ID science is so far below the level of normal academic professional science that it is not really worth engaging with.

  • Simon - I think you are right about the theological/scientific reasons. If people go against the scientific consensus in some discipline, that would either be because they are immersed in the discipline and have reached the view that the consensus is wrong, or because they have reasons from outside of that discipline that lead them to think that the consensus about that discipline is wrong. It's not a comfortable position to be in, but I appreciate your concession that it's not irrational as such.

    I think you can argue from science that evolution has significant unresolved issues. But that ought to be no surprise, and I don't have much time for the argument that evolution is nonsense because it has unresolved issues. Nor do I have much time for the claim that just looking at the evidence in a supposedly objective way would lead you to reject evolution in favour of nothing in particular (ID) or in favour of YEC. In order to make that kind of assessment you really need to be an active researcher in the field, with expertise in both the standard evolution model, and also the alternative that is being proposed.
  • croc June 2012

    All

    I am only trying to say (and point out examples) that there are issues with the evolutionary model which can justifiably cause me, or any one else, to have reservations with evolution. Also to show there are scientists fully competent in fields relevant to the discussion who are opposed to evolution.

    Because a majority may take a position it does not guarantee that position is right.

    My position re theology is that the science I have seen does not convince me about evolution, so I have no reason to abandon my theological beliefs.

    TO RETURN TO MY ORIGINAL QUESTION 'How can the layman decide', I think it does depend to a large extent on your personal understanding of God, his power and His authority.      BUT, I think that would be another thread.

    Got some good discussion going, thank you.

  • SimonSimon June 2012
    I too feel this discussion is petering out, however for the record I disagree with the statement:

    I am only trying to say (and point out examples) that there are issues with the evolutionary model which can justifiably cause me, or any one else, to have reservations with evolution. Also to show there are scientists fully competent in fields relevant to the discussion who are opposed to evolution.

    Science, by its nature, pushes the boundaries of knowledge into the unknown. So, as good science, evolutionary theory is constantly advancing, changing and modifying as it becomes ever more complete. Far from being a weakness, this is a strength of the theory. Indeed probably the most compelling aspect of the theory is that there has never been any major discovery that questions the central tenet's of the theory. So I absolutely disagree that there is any SCIENTIFIC reason that would cause an expert to question the evolutionary model to the point of trying to replace it. Those who try to replace evolution and claim to be experts (Michael Behe is one example) may be nice people and have impressive rhetorical skills, but at the end of the day are second rate scientists and not to be listened to.
  • croc June 2012

    Simon

    To describe scientists who disagree with you as second rate is, in my opinion, offensive.

    As in all walks, and all persuasions, there will be 2nd raters. Even evolutionists.

    But to so describe your peers and in some cases probably your betters; people who have worked on space missions; people employed by secular business in research capacities which are results driven - so those companies can develop products to enhance their business and also benefit people; people employed by British universities teaching students; in a blanket condemnation probably says more about you than them.

    Also you are saying their employers are not very bright to employ them, as they obviously can't be very good at their jobs.

     

  • SimonSimon June 2012
    I'm describing scientists who prove themselves incompetent in science as second rate - which seems fair. If you are a biologist/biochemist/geologist etc. who refuses to use the concepts provided by evolution in your work, then yes you are incompetent and should be fired because your work is not relevant to the scientific community which you are being paid to contribute to.

    If, on the other hand, you hold bizarre beliefs but these do not impact your research or daily work, then of course there are not grounds to be fired.

    PS I can't help asking which space missions you refer to - there have been some pretty famous cock-ups in the past due to people confusing metric with imperial measurements - which suggests there may be some second rate scientists even in space science (I've always resented "rocket science" being considered more difficult than biochemistry!).
     
  • exchemist June 2012
    Anthony, I confess I wrote my first response still reeling from the shock of finding that an astronomer - presumably dealing daily with celestial bodies whose light has taken millions of years to reach us - would have any time for the idea of a young earth. So if I seemed a bit emotional I regret that.
     
    It's a relief to me to see at least your qualifications about young age cosmology. But even on this I confess myself puzzled to see you say "we need to explore ways of reading Scripture that fit with an old universe", as mainstream Christianity has been doing this already for centuries. Reinventing the wheel?
       
    I do find your remarks about quantum mechanics and relativity rather grudging, considering these two theories have been revolutionary triumphs of c.20th physics, even the most bizarre predictions of which seem to have been amply confirmed. (My personal favourite is being able to see the building up, particle by individual particle, of a wave interference pattern from diffraction through a pair of slits.) But I am only a chemist so possibly too easily impressed. My understanding is that most work on reconciling them would likely render the c.20th view of each incomplete, rather than wrong (i.e. we are more likely to see a synthesis rather than a rejection of either), but you may be more au fait with this than I am.   

    I cannot agree that only a philosopher would see a difference between an "unresolved issue" and a "huge gaping hole". Any ordinary English-speaking reader would see the difference. In a scientific sense, the difference is - of course (I cannot I am afraid entirely resist the suspicion that you are being disingenuous in affecting not to see this) - that an "unresolved issue" is something that remains to be explained but does not undermine the main theory, while a "huge gaping hole" is subjective language implying a flaw of such importance that the credibility of the theory is wrecked.  

    I would suggest maybe you might think a bit about the fact that, as you yourself admit, you are happy to see revisions in disciplines you know less about. This phenomenon crops up time and again among creationists and those sympathetic to them. It really does seem that the more you know about a given aspect of science, the less likely you are to entertain a creationist version of it.  So your cheery "But hey...." seems to me to be doing an unhealthy amount of work in your view of the world.

    As for "catastrophic plate tectonics", this appears to be a fairly contorted effort to preserve appearances, that still fails to link to other aspects of science such as radiometric dating and biological lineages. And as far as I can see, it crucially fails to offer explanatory and predictive power superior to that of the current theory. Now that really is a "gaping hole", for any new theory seeking to gain traction. 

           
  • exchemist - thank you for your response. I went into astronomy partly because I wanted to figure out how or whether astronomy could be understood in the context of a young universe. So I've had time for young-age beliefs since before I knew anything about astronomy.

    I suppose in saying "we need to explore ways of reading Scripture that fit with an old universe" I mean we all do, including those who previously wouldn't have considered those approaches. Of course, Christians have been exploring this for a long time. I'm not yet entirely comfortable with the standard approaches on this (as I understand them). They seem to place a lot of weight on literary genre, perhaps too much weight. But maybe that's for another time.

    I would see general relativity and quantum mechanics as excellent approximations in their respective domains. In some (strict) sense they are both wrong, but "wrong" is quite blunt in ordinary parlance, and probably gives the wrong impression.

    I don't think there's a sharp, scientific distinction between an "unresolved issue" and a "huge gaping hole". If an "unresolved issue" stubbornly refuses to go away after many decades of intense research, then it could be seen as a "huge gaping hole". But even then, a theory with such issues or holes is not necessarily "wrong" in the sense of being of no value, but only "incomplete" in the sense that it does a good job in some domains but not in others.

    Agree about the other points. There do seem to be some promising signs, but the alternatives to the mainstream models have a long way to go in order to gain traction in scientific circles.
  • exchemist June 2012
    OK Anthony, thanks for the clarification. 

    I think you put your finger on something important when you speak of literary genre. I reached some sort of epiphany on this about a decade ago, from speaking to one of my brothers of my doubts about belief. Whereas I had read chemistry, he had read English. He was able to remind me that reading a work of literature with an educated literary eye can reveal many more layers of meaning than the naked words, taken purely at face value, seem to do. Applying this to the Bible, he pointed out, opens up the inward, more personal and subjective, messages it offers, regarding how to live one's life etc. So far from being a cop-out, it actually deepens understanding. It then occurred to me that reading in this way would have come naturally to people trained in the Humanities down the centuries. This in turn made me suspect it may paradoxically be us benighted scientists who have a naive propensity to get hung up on rigid and self-defeating literalism! (Think of Dawkins for example.)

    In general as I get older, I find I have more time for what the Humanities have to say to us about the human condition (including the thinkers of past ages). So this advice seemed to make sense, at the stage of life I have now reached. From the little I know of your position I don't expect you to agree with this way of treating the Bible of course - or at any rate not yet......      
  • No, I do agree! I think more "literary" ways of reading the text are extremely valuable, and I've benefited hugely from them. But there are still the historical events behind the text, of course.
  • jw_11_02 June 2012
    To me, this fascinating thread has touched on the subject upon which the crux of the issue lies. It seems that in respect to this discussion, an unhelpful, false dichotomy has been widely assumed by so many Christians who are engaged in it, and which is hindering the reconciliation of science and scripture. Hereby a Christian is faced with two options:

    - To take the Creation accounts literally as a concrete, 'scientific' account of the creation of the universe 

    Or

    - To accept that they must be understood 'figuratively' (without giving much time to determining what exactly this means) and thus we are free to approach the text on our terms, forming it into our own meaning and in doing so holding to all/any current scientific knowledge as authoritative.

    However, I'd like to propose that in assuming a third position - Seeking to understand what exactly the text is trying to convey (both in figurative and literal terms), whilst seeking to understand what exactly science is trying to tell us (without assuming the infallibility of all currently assumed scientific theories, nor seeking to take an uncomfortably unorthodox approach in the face of facts) that this discussion would be benefited considerably.

    In a nutshell, I think too little time has been focused on trying to harmonize the discrepancies of scripture and science by identifying where the problems actually do lie - instead people are more interested in starting with their preconceived scientific/theological ideas in the sense of holding to beliefs which they aren't prepared to question, and then working to bolster their position from that starting point. I'd really like for all of us who are involved in this creation/science dialogue to take a few steps back and question our own motives for arriving at the position which we are at. Then we should ask ourselves where are we prepared to be challenged?  And most importantly, in this way we should be able to get down to the real issue - where does the conflict actually lie between science and scripture? and how (perhaps by revising our understanding of both) can we arrive at a satisfying harmonious conclusion? I'd like to encourage more threads to be posted on these kind of issues!
  • exchemist June 2012
    JW, thanks, very thoughtful. I don't think I could disagree with your general sentiment (and I acknowledge to some extent the implied rebuke regarding the style of debate from time to time, my own included). However the frustration that people such as myself experience is that we believe orthodox Christianity has already achieved a perfectly serviceable reconciliation of science and Christian belief over the last few centuries. So we have, or had (see below), already got to the point you are advocating. This would be true at least for mainstream denominations with clergy who maintain a corpus of common theology and whose duty has been to think about these things and guide their flocks accordingly.

    Trying to address the issue you identify, I note first of all that you formulate it as dealing with discrepancies between SCRIPTURE and science (rather than between Christianity and science for example). I think this could be significant. Though I am open to correction from those with better knowledge of the history of Christianity, it seems to me the perception of conflict between Christian belief and science is an intermittent phenomenon, the most recent phase of which is caused by the recrudescence of one type of Christian persuasion, whose underlying principle is to reject all authority other than that of scripture. Clearly if that is the principle at work, then the reconciliation achieved by earlier religious thinkers (a form of authority) may be rejected, as may natural science (another form of authority). 

    By contrast, to make progress and not get bogged down reinventing the wheel, any trained scientist must trust the handiwork of his forebears, until such time as it is shown by observation to be defective. So he implicitly has a mindset that accepts their authority. So that's already a basic difference in outlook. Even worse, to the scientist, rejection of science for reasons other than observational evidence is counter to their own underlying principle.

    So you have a clash of underlying principles - that would be my diagnosis. But I stress this only applies to  one persuasion within Christianity, which is actually in a minority. For the rest, there isn't a problem.