Archive for October 2008

Does the Bible Teach a Solid Firmament?

October 31, 2008

Critics of a literal Genesis interpretation will attempt to claim that the Bible teaches an erroneous Eastern Cosmology, therefore the Creation account must be taken figuratively.  Specifically, the Bible is said to teach a solid raqiya, which is Hebrew for firmament (KJV) or expanse (NIV, NASB).  Since we know that the sky isn’t really solid, we must therefore conclude that Genesis is meant to be taken figuratively.  Immediately, the astute Biblical scholar will ask, what DOES the Bible say about the raqiya?

Scripture Interprets Scripture

The methodology of Biblical interpretation is a completely different, and extensive, topic in it’s own right.  But it will suffice to say here that we will be looking for Scripture to interpret Scripture.  That is, since Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, and ONLY Scripture is inerrant, the only way to truly understand Scripture is through Scripture.  In more every day terms, we must take Scripture for what it says without forcing upon it what others say about it or what we think about it.  When we start forcing others’ ideas or our own preconceived notions upon the Word of God, we risk shipwrecking the Biblical message.

Where is the Raqiya Described?

Gen 1: 6-8: “Then God said, “Let there be an expanse (raqiya) in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. God made the expanse (raqiya), and separated the waters which were below the expanse (raqiya) from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven . . .”

God is describing the “expanse” as that which is “in the midst of the waters” and the waters are “above the expanse”.  So the raqiya is in the midst of and above the waters.  Let’s say I am attempting to describe the sky to someone who no scientific knowledge, as God was attempting with Moses, if I described the sky as an “expanse” (raqiya) that is in the midst of waters (clouds) and below waters, would I be wrong or figurative?  No, so God is neither erroneous in his cosmology nor figurative in his description.

Gen 1:14: “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse (raqiya) of the heavens to separate the day from the night. . .”

Gen 1:17:  “God placed them in the expanse (raqiya) of the heavens to give light on the earth,”

Now it seems that the raqiya exists beyond our Earth since God placed the moon and the sun in it.  There is no distinction made here between the raqiya that is below and “in the midst” of the waters and the raqiya that the lights are placed in that is obviously beyond our Earth. 

Gen 1:20: “Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse (raqiya) of the heavens.” “

This verse is saying that birds can fly “in” the raqiya.

There are, arguably, other references to the raqiya in the Old Testament, however since we are dealing with what Scripture has to say about the creation account specifically, I will end the references here.

What did the Jews Believe About the Firmament?

In describing why theistic evolutionists view the Bible as teaching a solid raqiya, I will quoting from the recent discussion with Thomas.  The main argument seems to be that since the people who lived back in the day, whom Thomas calls “the ancients”, believed that the raqiya was solid, then the Bible erroneously taught them this.  Thomas says:

When Elihu says that the skies are hard as a mirror of bronze (Job 37:18), he is giving us a clue to how the ancients, including the Jews, saw the skies. I think if you look at the ancient Greeks, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians, you will find similar ideas about the cosmos. You may disagree with Elihu, but I do not think the children of Israel who were reading Genesis did.

Firstly, we need to refrain from getting confused between to very distinct issues.  There is a hugedifference between a God inspired writer adapting to his own limited scientific knowledge and God accommodating His description to human error.  Let me say again, there is a HUGEdifference.  Such accommodations on God’s part leads us to question the inerrancy of all Scripture based on ancient scientific understanding.  A logical slippery slope ensues:  The ancient idea of morality regarding human responsibility were erroneously based upon a lack of scientific knowledge, we know today that brain chemistry is what decides the behavior of human beings.  That is not a far-fetched position, a growing minority of the scientific community argues this way.

Bluntly:  What “the ancients” believe about the Bible doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what the Bible says.  The vast majority of the ancients, including all of those that Thomas mentioned, believed that the God of Jews didn’t exist; does that belief have merit just because they existed a long time ago?  Of course not.

Secondly, if today we say “the sky is blue” to a person who is a member of a “primitive” society, and they happen to define the “sky” as “the solid expanse over our head”, this does not make our original statement, “the sky is blue,” in error. Their thought-concept is indeed in error, but our original statement is not—even if we both happen to use the same word, “sky”, to describe different concepts.  So when God said “raqiya” and Elihu and the rest of the Jews took it to mean “hard as bronze”, does this make God wrong in his original description of “expanse”?  No.  Does it mean that God is teaching them a solid expanse?  Of course not.

Biblical Support for a Solid Firmament

There are two places in Genesis, where Thomas believes a solid raqiya is supported by the text.  He says:

It is no contradiction to say that the sun, moon, and stars are placed in a solid firmament. They are “placed” as in “fixed” or “attached.”

I am assuming that Thomas is referring to Gen 1:17:  “God placed them in the expanse (raqiya) of the heavens to give light on the earth,”.  What is this verse saying about the sun, moon and stars?  That God placed them.  That is all Scripture says.  Could we read here that the sun, moon and stars were placed into a solid firmament?  Of course.  But aren’t those heavenly bodies fixed in their orbits?  Were they not placed in their orbits by God? 

If I am attempting to describe to someone, with no scientific knowledge, why the moon keeps coming back, day after day and year after year, am I wrong to say that the moon is “placed” or “fixed” there?  Of course not. 

The ironic part about this argument is that Thomas puts all kinds of stock in how the ancients viewed cosmology in regards to a solid firmament, but ignores their cosmology in regards to the movement of heavenly bodies.  Being geocentric, the ancients certainly observed the continuous reappearance of the moon as “movement” of the moon.  Yet, I’m sure they would describe the moon as “fixed” since it’s reappearance is certain.  “Fixed” and “orbital movement” are not mutually exclusive ideas.  In fact, modern cosmology describes the moon as “fixed in it’s orbit”.  Are we really going to say the Bible is teaching erroneous cosmology just because God didn’t mention orbital movement?

Bluntly:  Scripture only says that the heavenly bodies were “fixed” or “placed” in the expanse.  It says nothing about what they were fixed in was MADE of.  So to read a solid expanse into “fixed” is to put your own preconceived ideas onto the text.

Thomas also says:

Also, you will notice that other translations have the birds flying “across” rather than “in” the expanse. You could also describe birds flying across the (inside) roof of a barn. No problem at all.

Thomas must be referring to the NIV translation of Gen 1:20, “And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.”  So yes, you could say that birds could be flying across the roof of a barn, or across a solid raqiya.  But you could also, just as easily, say that the birds are flying across an open expanse of sky.  If am describing bird flight to you and I say, “That birds just flew across the sky”.  Was I wrong in my description?  No.  Am I trying to teach you that the sky is solid?  No.  So to attempt to argue that the creation account is describing a solid raqiya by describing birds as flying “across” it is again reading into Scripture what you have already decided is there.

Again, Scripture only says that birds fly “in the open expanse” or “across the expanse”, it says nothing about what they are flying across is MADE of. 

 Conclusion

To give credence to “the ancients” beliefs of a solid sky is in essence saying, “Well these people believed it, and they lived a long time ago, therefore it must be what the Bible taught them.”

Genesis says that God places the water “in the midst” and “above”, and then “places” or “fixes” the heavenly bodies in the raqiya.  That is the extent of the description of the “expanse”.  Therefore, I argue that the raqiya is intended to refer to that which serves to separate the earth from all that is beyond it.  We could, if we wanted to, read into Scripture that the raqiya is described as solid.  However, as we’ve seen, Genesis 1 was perfectly designed to allow that interpretation which is in agreement with modern science, for it says nothing more than that God created the expanse or its constituent elements while remaining completely silent about what those elements were. 

It only depends upon where one started: if one starts with the presupposition of a solid sky, one will read into the text a solid sky. If one starts with a modern conception, the text permits that as well.  Plainly, the Bible just doesn’t say what the raqiya is made of, and so any position that we take in that regard is mere speculation.  For one take the position, as Thomas does, that on the basis of a solid sky the entire Genesis account must be take figuratively, one must absolutely ignore all the other evidence from Scripture of a literal creation week.

“There is Probably No God”

October 29, 2008

That is what Richard Dawkins wants you to know. 

BBC News reports that an ad campaign supported by the British Humanist Association plans on running the phrase, “There is probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” on the sides of public buses.

The BHA planned on raising $17,000, half from supporters that would then be matched by Professor Dawkins.  However, they have already raised about $150,000 on their own.  The original plan was to run the slogan on 60 buses for 4 weeks, but the current funding will probably expand their original intentions.  In regards to the ad campaign, Dawkins said:

“Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride—automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children.  Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side.”

Apparently, Dawkins feels left out of the “brainwashing” and wants to do some of his own.  Dawkins continues:

“This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”

Dawkins must also think that Jesus was lying in Matthew 22:27, “And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ ”

Dawkins outright assumes that Christians are merely unthinking zombies, and what a testament to his rationality that position is!  I want to personally thank the BHA and Professor Dawkins for putting this issue on the for front of people’s minds.  I agree, the slogan will get people to think, which is definitely a good thing. 

The slogan is also accurate in that “probably” is the best that atheists can do.  After all, absolute truth is an anathema to athiesm.  Does Dawkins really expect us to jump on the bandwagon of probability?  What if I created an add campaign that said, “No one will probably ever attempt to break into your house, so why lock your doors?” or “You probably will never set your house of fire, so stop worrying and enjoy your life!”.  How quickly would the police and fire department condemn me?  Pascals’ Wager comes to mind.  Atheists must be willing to risk eternity on probability.

However, this is where the slogan fails to describe the situation correctly.  If God really doesn’t exist, then the entirety of humanity shares the same destiny.  We will all be annihilated.  We have no choice, no say in the matter and no hope.  It won’t matter if you’re a rapist, a priest, or a rapist priest, you are headed to complete annihilation.  So, if there is probably no God, I’m not quite sure “enjoying” your life will be what you will do.  Anxiety and apprehension about when you will cease to exist, and anger about your choice in the matter, is more likely.

Mainly though, I think the slogan will just show people the weakness of the “probably” arguments athiests must make.

Oh, and Mr. Dawkins, this is completely off topic and I know you could talk me under the table but . . . you’re going with aliens?

 

My apologies, I just couldn’t help myself.

A Question for the WordPress Community

October 27, 2008

I run a Creationist blog and as such I am usually involved in a discussion either in my own comments section, or the comments section of another blogger.  Since I’ve only been a part of the blogosphere for a few months, I’m not sure where the line of proper blog etiquette and unwritten common courtesy is. 

 A blogger referenced, and quoted, a post of mine without linking it

Now, I’ve always linked whatever I’m referring to, and this has been the general trend in my blogosphere experience.  My question: 

 

I personally prefer comment moderation because it allows me to more closely monitor what is said and seen on my blog.  However, I always approve comments (that are approvable) immediately after I skim over them no matter how long it will take me to reply.  My thought is that if someone put time and effort in to writing a discussion point, they should be able to have that point out for the world to see as soon as possible. The second thing that happened is . . .

That same blogger waited to approve my comments until he/she had written a counter point

I know this happened because the blogger had updated their blog several hours after my comments were posted and he/she must have seen my comments awaiting approval in order to respond to them.  I guess my question is . . .

 

These answers will honestly help me shape my opinion on the matter.  Thanks community!

Should Christians Believe in an Old Earth?

October 24, 2008

Recently, I’ve found myself defending the Bible against fellow Christians who don’t take Genesis naturally.  The general reason for doing this is to show that the Bible and science are compatible.  Right away, I would like to ask the question; should we be attempting to reconcile the Bible to science?  Or should we be reconciling science to the Bible?  As Christians, we believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God.  If this is the case, then every single subject the Bible touches on, it is the absolute authority on that subject. 

Although the Bible is not a scientific textbook (textbooks change every year), that doesn’t mean it doesn’t talk about anything regarding the natural world.  Especially when it comes to natural evidence of the unobservable past, are we going to trust human scientists who weren’t in the past and, compared to God, know very little?  Or will we trust God who is the only One who was in the past and who knows all things?

To explain this point better, I’d like to make a distinction between two types of science. 

Procedural Science vs. Historical Science

Very briefly, procedural science is that which we can observe and test in the natural world.  Historical science is that which attempt to describe the unobservable past through current natural evidence (DNA, geologic column, fossils, tree rings, cosmological phenomena etc.).  Although much more can and should be said on the topic, it will suffice to say here that making scientific conclusions of a historical nature require certain assumptions that procedural science does not.  The two main assumptions of the evolutionary worldview is naturalism and uniformitarianism.

As Christians, is it logical to take the historical science stories which require assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism over the infallible Word of God?

With this in mind, the question then becomes about what Scripture says about the natural world, and in particular, about how God created the Earth.

A Natural Interpretation of Scripture

Since our starting point is that Scripture is the infallible Word of God, and nothing else is, the only way to interpret Scripture is naturally.  What this means is to take historical accounts as historical accounts, poetry as poetry, and parable as parable.  How we decide if a particular passage is which, is by looking at the context;  Scripture interprets Scripture.  Let’s give this treatment to the Genesis account:

As the first chapter is entirely relevant to this discussion, and entirely too long for me to repeat it, I will just link it (Genesis 1), and then refer to specific verses within it.

Yom:  It Means a Literal Day in Genesis

It is true that the Hebrew word for day, yom, does not always refer to a literal twenty-four hour period (it can also mean from sun up to sun down and an indefinite period of time).  But when it doesn’t, the context always makes it clear. 

1:  The context of Genesis uses a literal meaning of yom

In Genesis 1:4-5, yom is defined in it’s two literal senses, the light portion of the day and the whole day.  On the first day, yom is defined for the entire creation account as either the light period or the whole day.  It’s impossible, therefore, to take yom away from the definition laid down at the beginning of the creation account in later verses without ignoring Genesis 1:4-5.

Yom is also used here with “morning” and “evening”.  Everywhere these two words are used in the Old Testament, with yom or without it, the text is referring to a literal evening or morning of a literal day. 

Yom is also used in conjunction with a number; one, two, three etc.  Every other time yom is used with a number, it is in description of literal days.

2:  Exodus 20:9-11 spoils all attempts to interpret millions of years into Genesis 1

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:9-11, quote in NKJV and link in NIV)

Read the above passage again, no really I mean it.  God’s entire reason for the Sabbath, and for the literal Jewish work week, was because of a literal creation week.  If God wanted to say that the Jews should work six literal days, and rest a seventh, because He worked in an indefinite period of time, He could have used any of the other three Hebrew words for “a period of time”, but instead He chose what the Jews would interpret as literal days, the word yom

3.  Jesus is a Young-Earth Creationist

This subject was gone to more detail in here, but Jesus clearly affirms his belief in a literal creation week in Mark 10:6.  Jesus is saying that God created humans “from the beginning of creation”, which would be false if humans came billions of years later as theistic evolution suggests.  So, if Jesus was a young-earth creationist, then how can His faithful followers have any other view?

4.  A belief in millions of years is opposition to the Biblical doctrine of death and the character of God

In Genesis 1, God calls creation “good” six times and when he finished on day six, He called everything “very good”.  Once Adam and Even sinned, God judged all of creation.  Instantly, Adam and Eve died spiritually and began to die physically (which they weren’t doing before).  The serpent and the Earth were changed physically and the ground itself was cursed (Gen 3:14-19).  Now, all of creation groans under bondage to corruption, awaiting the day when God restores His people (Romans 8:19-25). 

How can God call His creation “very good” if there was billions of years of suffering and death in the animal kingdom before humans were created?

This notion also makes God into a bumbling, lying, cruel creator who lacks the power to prevent disease, natural disasters, and extinctions to mar His creative work, without any moral cause, but still calls it all “very good.”

5.  Paul basis his theology of salvation on a literal six day creation

If death and suffering already existed before the first man had a chance to sin, why do we need a savior?  The most important doctrine of Christianity, humanities need for a savior and Jesus’ ability to fill that roll, is based, according to Paul, on Adam’s first sin (Romans 5:16-18). 

Theistic Evolutionist Objections

These are just some of the objections I’ve heard so far from theistic evolutionists that I haven’t mentioned.

1.  In Mark 10:6, Jesus is talking about the beginning of marriage or the beginning of humanity, not the literal beginning of creation.

You can say that all you want, but what Jesus says is, “From the beginning of creation.”  It’s pretty simple.  What is more “in the beginning”, the sixth day of creation or billions of years after creation?

2.  On day three, God creates plants after their kinds, and those plants had descendants which grow.  No plant can have offspring which grow in only one day. 

To make this argument, you first completely ignore the clear evidence I gave above.  Then, you must ignore your own uniformitarian assumption in your interpretation.  You are attempting to argue that God is capable of creating nature, but once created, God is then bound by current rates of growth and reproduction.  The ridiculousness of this argument speaks for itself.

3.  On day six, Adam names all the animals, which must have been thousands of creatures, if not more, so that can’t possibly happen in one day either.

You must assume that he had thousands of names to give, instead of only a few.  Considering that, on day six, Adam is naming kinds, you’re going to have a hard time arguing this.  How long would it take to name a cat, a dog, a cow, a bird, a fish, a deer, etc.  There are not that many kinds.

Conclusion

If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, if we read history as history and poetry as poetry etc, it is obvious what the Bible itself teaches about the beginning of the Earth.  To force uniformitarian and naturalistic assumptions upon the text of the Bible, is to literally take the authority of science over the authority of God’s Word.  What is at stake here is the authority of Scripture, the character of God, the doctrine of death, and the foundation of the Gospel message.

I have a question for all the theistic evolutionists reading this; why only Genesis?  That is, since the reason to interpret Genesis figuratively is because modern science has clearly shown that the Earth was not created in six days, why not interpret the rest of Scripture in the light of modern science?  Modern science tells us that men don’t walk on water, men can’t heal the sick, men don’t rise from dead and men don’t ascend from hilltops.  Why only subject Genesis to the conclusions of modern science, why not give Jesus the same treatment and then be forced to treat the acts of Jesus, including His death on the cross, as figurative?  Why only Genesis?

Airtightnoodle IS a Progressive Creationist

October 20, 2008

This is response to an article by Airtightnoodle where she denies being a progressive creationist. (I had previously claimed that Airtightnoodle didn’t publish one of my comments, this was false and I apologize for any confusion).

Previously, Airtightnoodle and I were discussing our differences regarding a literal interpretation of the Bible, what that means to our faith as Christians, and how it fits into evolutionary theory.  Specifically, we were discussing Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE.”  At one point, I challenged Airtightnoodle, on her beliefs as an evolutionist.  Specifically, that the theory of evolution states that Natural Selection, and not God as Mark 10:6 (as well as Colossians 1:16) claims, formed humans from primate ancestors over the course of hundreds of thousands of years.

In response to my challenge over the course of our conversation, Airtightnoodle said several things to defend her Christianity.

“…and I have never said God is not the creator of all things.”

“The Bible says that God is the Creator…it does not go into detail about how God went about His creative work. As the bible is not a science text, I find it completely plausible that the two are not mutually exclusive and that evolution could be, in fact, one of God’s creative processes.”

“If God is the creator and author of natural laws, I see no reason why He can’t be credited for the process of evolution. That would still make Him still the Creator of everything, even if the process He used to achieve the ends to His means was evolution (etc).”

“It says God made everything. God is the creator. Agreed.”

These quotes are in direct contradiction to evolutionary theory.  On this much, we can all agree right?  Airtight literally said that evolution is “one of God’s creative processes.”  Is this more in line with theistic evolution, which states that God STARTED the evolutionary process, or with progressive creationism which states that God GUIDED the evolutionary process? 

The definitions of progressive creationism that Airtight gave on her blog fit the above quotes nicely.  However, Airtightnoodle is also a walking contradiction.  As the quotes above show, she holds that God is the creator of all things, and yet she considers evolution to be a viable explanation.  In fact, she frequently chides creationists for believing God has acted in the natural world, calling us “religious types” on a regular basis.  For example, even a theistic evolutionist would consider the Miller-Urey experiment to be bunk, and yet she just posted an article about how perhaps it’s more viable than first thought.  So, which one is it, did God create all things or is the Miller-Urey experiment on the right track on how life might have formed itself?  You can’t have it both ways Airtightnoodle.

“Yet I can’t help but find it funny that someone would group me, who runs a blog defending evolution, as a progressive creationist.”

Believe me, the irony of the position you find yourself in is not lost on me either.

Forknowledge, his Brother and Their Belief in the Supernatural

October 19, 2008

For the record:  I’m not attempting to prove molecules-to-man evolution wrong.  This is a task I couldn’t possibly accomplish neither do I have the resources nor the desire to try.  My previous post was solely meant to give evidence of a phenomena that is contrary to evolutionary theory, and hence, evolutionary theory was adapted to fit it and the problem has been swept under the rug.

The “Molecules-to-man” Issue

Apparently, Forknowledge and his brother, Penguinfactory, have take exception to my use of the phrase “molecules-to-man evolution”.  Forknowledge says, “Kemp has given a bizarre defence of using the word ‘molecules’ by pointing out that the first living organisms were likely some sort of very basic prokaryotes (I’m confused too), while also stating that ‘man is the highest form of evolution’.”  I’m confused too.

Forknowledge, are you denying or ignoring your necessary belief in abiogenesis?  By default, you MUST believe that life formed itself from lifeless molecules somehow.  The only other alternative is God.  And since you can’t have that, you have abiogenesis.  Prokaryotes are the most simple system of molecules that formed themselves out of molecules (depending upon your particular variation of abiogenesis), hence “molecules”.

The brothers claim I contradicted myself by stating that the phrase “molecules-to-man” is not anthropocentric but then making the claim that humans are the highest evolved species.  Anthropocentricism states, as I understand it, that the POINT of evolution was to eventually evolve into humans.  The phrase says nothing about this, it only implies that humans are the most highly evolved.  In rebuttal to this idea, Penguinfactory said, “Humans are not the “highest” form of life from an evolutionary perspective. Everything alive today- even bacteria- is just as highly evolved as everything else.”

Are you attempting to claim that homo sapien,  the only species that could form a response to a logical argument as you’ve just done, has invented the automobile, the airplane, landed on the moon, writes poetry, plays music, and have the ideals of love, compassion and freedom are NOT the most evolved?  It’s like I’m in bizarro world.

The “Top Down” Issue

In my previous post, I showed that the Cambrian fossil record shows “top down” variation which is in contradiction to evolutionary theory that predicts a “bottom up” variation.  That is, the big characteristics (classified as “phyla”) show up first with variations happening down the line only in the context of their already set phyla.

Forknowledge and his brother, of course, disagreed with this, “Eric is once again applying the concept of the phylum across the board, as if it’s the only way to categorize the different types of living organism”  and “the majority of phyla appeared during the Cambrian, that is not the same as claiming that the majority of speciation or differentiation occured during it.

Strawman anyone?  I didn’t mention speciation or differentiation (by the way, what is that exactly?) I only mentioned phyla for a reason.  Of course, no one is saying that phyla is the only way to classify organisms.  But the phylum is the biggest classification within a Kingdom, and that’s what we’re talking about.  Let’s look at the chart:

So, the Cambrian fossil record clearly shows, as you’ve admitted, that most of phyla of life appeared with no apparent ancestors about 500 million years ago.  The majority of life as we know it are descendants of this fossil record.  They are admittedly very different but they only differ within their phylum set down during the Cambrian period.  This is a blatant “top down” formation, and talking about how different life is within phyla only supports that idea.   Why the phyla (body plan) stasis?  Why hasn’t the phyla changed just as much in the last 500 million years as it did during the 5-10 million years of the Cambrian?  These are questions evolutionary theory can’t answer.

Molecules-to-man evolution requires belief in the supernatural

Wikipedia:  The term supernatural or supranatural (super, supra “above” + natura “nature”) pertains to entities, events or powers regarded as beyond nature, in that they lack a clear scientific explanation.

Dictionary.com:  Of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.

American Heritage Dictionary:  Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.

Empiricism is the system of thought that says the only (or the best) way to know something is through experience.  That is, what we can experience with our senses is best way to true knowledge.  Science is the most natural expression of empiricism.
Let’s evaluate a statement based on it’s empirical value.  That statement is,

“God created the diversity of life on Earth.”

The problem is that it’s not an empirical statement.  But why not?
1.  The above statement is not empirical in nature because it is claiming something that is seen  “the diversity of life” is explained by something that is not seen, “God”.
2.  God is something that, by definition, cannot be experienced by the senses.
Therefore this statement cannot be empirically verified.  As a statement of belief, this is a belief in the supernatural as defined above.  Caveat:  I, of course, don’t believe that there isn’t any empirical evidence for God otherwise I wouldn’t be a Christian.  But the statement itself, even if there can be evidence for it, can’t be empirically verified.
Let’s evaluate another statement on the same basis.  Penguinfactory made the statement that the process of evolution we see today is the same as 500 million years ago.  I objected, pointing out that we can’t know that since one is observable and the other is not.  In response to this, Penguinfactory said,

“We have enough evidence to be able to conclude that evolution has been occurring throughout the history of life on this planet.”

This is also not an empirical statement.  Why?
1.  The above statement is not empirical because it is claiming that something that we can see “evolution” has been occurring during a time we cannot see, “the history of life”. 
2.  The past is something that, by definition, cannot be experienced by the senses.
3.  A phenomena that can cause 25-35 new phyla to appear in a five-ten million year time period has never been experienced by the senses.  Such a phenomena is outside of nature as we know it.  Empirically, we don’t even know if such a thing is possible.  As such, the statement that such a phenomena exists is a statement of belief.  And as a statement of belief, it is a belief in the supernatural. 

Remember, supernatural is defined as “lacking a clear scientific explanation,” “unexplainable by natural law of phenomena”, and “seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.”  The phenomena that created the diversity of life at the Cambrian does not have a “clear scientific explanation”, it only has theory, it’s unexplainable by any natural law that we can empirically verify, and seems to violate the natural and go beyond the natural forces we observe everyday.  Therefore, it fits as a supernatural phenomena perfectly.

Supernatural Powers

Naturalists give their beliefs supernatural powers, just like Christians do.  For us, God violates all known natural law and creates life as we know it.  For the naturalist, chance violates all natural law and creates life from non-life (abiogenesis).  Natural law is again violated when chance and Natural Selection creates twenty to thirty-five out of the forty phyla in a relatively short amount of time during the Cambrian.  By giving these supernatural powers to an observed natural phenomena, chance and Natural Selection, the naturalist can deny they believe in the supernatural.

To the naturalist, these things ARE described by natural law and yet, we’ve never seen a natural law that can accomplish the feats the naturalist believes chance can accomplish.  The powers of chance and Natural Selection given in molecules-to-man evolution are outside any known natural law and nothing has been observed that can even come close, hence, it is supernatural.

The Cambrian: A Huge Problem for Molecules-to-Man Evolution

October 16, 2008

Evolutionists want us to believe that the small successive changes we see around us can be reversed to billions of years in the past so that all life has a common ancestor with a single cell.  Claiming that life is evolving right now and that all life evolved from a single cell organism are two different statements.  I call the former “evolution” and the latter “molecules-to-man evolution” (or “macroevolution” depending upon who I’m talking to).  They also claim that the fossil record absolutely supports this and the more fossils we find, the more molecules-to-man evolution is supported. 

This claim is false.  The fossil record absolutely does NOT support the molecules-to-man evolution claim.

What do we mean by “Evolution”?

Modern evolutionary theory states that the diversity of life we see around us a result of small successive changes over billions of years.  These changes come about as a result of genetic mutations that are selected or discarded based upon their ability to increase biological fitness.  That is, only mutations that help the organism survive in their particular environment are kept (neutral mutations may or may not stay around to turn into beneficial mutations later on, but are not selected for until they ARE beneficial).  The massive amount of biological material and information that we find ourselves studying today is accounted for by the massive amount of time it took to develop through these tiny genetic changes.

The problem with this? The fossil record states that it didn’t happen this way at all.

The Cambrian “Explosion”

The evolutionary “story” goes something like this; about 4 billion years ago, the first simple celled organisms appeared (prokaryotes).  They dominated the scene until about 2 billion years ago when complex multi-cellular organisms appeared (eukaryotes), these include simple plants, fungi, and sponges.  Then, about 530 million years ago, life exploded. 

In about a 5 million year period, most of the life as we know it suddenly appeared with no evolutionary ancestors.  As few as twenty and as many as thirty-five of the worlds’ forty phyla (the highest category of the Kindom Animalae) appeared out of no where (J.W. Valentine Development 126, 1999).  This means that entirely novel and highly complex body plans shows up in the fossil record with no ancestors.  If we compress all of the Earth’s history into twenty-four hours, the Cambrian explosion would last only about one minute.  Put another way, seventy-five percent of all life shows up in about .07% of the time the Earth has existed. 

The fossil record literally goes from fungi and simple worms to the trilobite with an articulated body, complicated nervous system and compound eyes, fully formed and novel, in the blink of an eye!  The most astounding thing about the Cambrian explosion is that it’s followed by stasis.  That is, zero new body plans have evolved in the 500 million years since the Cambrian. 

The “Top Down” Pattern

Neo-Darwinian theory predicts a “bottom up” pattern where small differences develop before the large differences in form and body plan are seen much farther down the line.  For instance, pre-Cambrian sponges should have produced a myriad of varieties and those varieties would then eventually lead to different species, forms and body plans. 

However, the fossil record from the Cambrian shows a completely different “top down” pattern.  Massive differences in form and body plan appear suddenly with nothing simpler preceding them.  Then, after the Cambrian, only minor variations arise within the framework of the body plans set down in the Cambrian.

The modern theory of evolution just plain can’t account for the Cambrian fossil record.

The Evolutionary Response

The knowledge of the Cambrian has been around for a long time, and yet, evolution is still going strong.  The Cambrian explosion must not be as big of a problem for evolution as I am saying it is.  Well, my position is that NOTHING is a big problem for the theory of evolution since the theory can easily be adapted to fit whatever evidence is found.  The thinking goes something like this, “Since evolution happened, there must be an evolutionary explanation for the Cambrian explosion.”  The theory will just “evolve” (pun intended) an explanation. 

Punctuated Equilibrium has been proposed as an explanation for the fossil record.  However, punctuated equilibrium is merely another form of gradual change, there is no evidence that even heightened mutation rates could produce the amount of novel body plans found in the Cambrian. The mutations rates would have to be amazingly fast in order to account for the fossil record.   Also, punctuated equilibrium predicts a “bottom up” approach so it cannot account for the “top down” fossil record as well.

To explain how life as we know it evolved from a single cell, evolutionary theory says, “It had billions of years to do it”.  The fossil record contradicts this by telling us it did most of the work in only 5 million years.  To explain the contradiction, Stephen Jay Gould comes up with punctuated equilibrium, which STILL doesn’t explain the fossil record.  Then to explain why life went into body plan stasis after the Cambrian, evolutionary theory goes back to “well, evolution IS really slow”. 

“Miracles”

This topic was brought up with a discussion I was having with Forknowledge and Penguin Factory on Forknowledge’s blog.  In the discussion, I was asserting that molecules-to-man evolution is unfalsifiable, not only because it is unobservable and untestable, but also because any new discovery can just be absorbed by the theory, no matter how contradictory to the previously accepted tenets of the theory the discovery is.  

Penguin countered by saying that the discovery of a mammal in the pre-Cambrian fossil record would be “a miracle” and would destroy evolution.  While I have no idea what academia’s reaction to a pre-Cambrian mammal would be, and neither does Penguin, I know that previous discoveries that directly contradict evolutionary theory, like the Cambrian explosion, were put on the shelf in the “we don’t know yet” section until a plausible theory, like punctuated equilibrium, explains the phenomena.  Now, punctuated equilibrium STILL can’t explain the “top down” formation of fossils, and the speed and magnitude of mutation required by the Cambrian, but evolutionists aren’t worried.  Why?  Because they’ll explain it someday.  In the mean time, molecules-to-man evolution is a fact, “miracle” Cambrian explosion or not. 

In the same discussion, Forknowledge said “It is common knowledge that the theory has undergone (and may soon undergo) dramatic changes.”  Exactly, Forknowledge.  Every time contradictory evidence is discovered, all the theory of evolution has to do is “change”.