Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Question for my Creationist Friends

When responding to evidence that suggests the Universe is much (MUCH) older than the Bible says, my creationist friends have provided a couple of basic responses:

1) God created an already mature Universe approximately 6000 years ago.
2) The Flood caused many of the changes on Earth which make it appear older than it is.

Here's the question:

Assume that there is a smart, curious man who has never heard of the Christian God or the Bible. All he has to help him figure out how the Universe came about are the scientific data and theories.

Would it be reasonable for this man to believe the Universe and Earth are billions of years old?

27 comments:

Orthoprax said...

This is my point that I've been making and nobody has recognized yet. Nobody will independently find Genesis in the physical evidence.

The best believers do is manipulate either the evidence or the beliefs so that they match, more or less.

Jewish Atheist said...

Well, let's hear what they say, orthoprax. I'm genuinely curious.

Anonymous said...

What, you think this simple question will provide the proverbial "smack upside the head" to creationists, believers in religion, et al?

Faith, at least as we comprehend it in Western religions, in large part involves the suppression of that which is first and most easily perceived and believed, for the sake of a belief or perception that cannot be "rationally" reached. In and of itself, why is that a bad thing?

In answering that question, be careful not to confuse the role and potential of what I've called faith with what are admittedly the negative effects and activities of some of those who are labeled as our "most faithful," i.e. frummies of every religion. Or do you believe that someone who accepts the concept that "faith" may have some traction necessarily causes evil in the world?

Jewish Atheist said...

Faith, at least as we comprehend it in Western religions, in large part involves the suppression of that which is first and most easily perceived and believed, for the sake of a belief or perception that cannot be "rationally" reached. In and of itself, why is that a bad thing?

It's bad because you're believing something that probably isn't true. Do I really need to explain why that's bad?

Eric said...

To expand on that question JA - Believing in something that is probably wrong isn't a bad thing in and off itself (not that its a good thing, but its mostly harmless). It's when fundies take their faith driven irrational 'truth', hop on the steamroller of majority rule and proceed to drive the educational system back to the 11th century that it becomes a bad thing.

Ben Avuyah said...

This is a good way to highlight the difference between the theistic and atheistic thought systems.
Atheists work from the facts to reach a conclusion.
Theists accept a conclusion without evidence (definition of faith) and are then left to bungle the available evidence to fit the conclusion they have already accepted. That is why everything they say is an apologetic.

I think true theists do not recognize this distinction or think it is arbitrary.

Sadie Lou said...

I'll offer the suggestion that creation itself speaks of God. Romans 1:20 says
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
This man that didn't know about the Bible and only had scientific data and theories to go off of--who's to say that would satisfy him? Perhaps he would wonder about the miracle of birth. Perhaps he would wonder how science could explain how things work but couldn't explain why things are so beautiful.
These questions might lead him to search out God and according to the Bible, that's exactly it.
You know about the God of the Bible and have chosen to reject it. That's different than the individual that doesn't know.

Jewish Atheist said...

You know about the God of the Bible and have chosen to reject it.

Just to clarify, I haven't "chosen to reject it," I simply don't believe it's true.

Sadie Lou said...

You're splitting hairs on that one; you rejected it as false--that's still rejection.
and what do you have to say about the other stuff I said?

Jewish Atheist said...

I'm not splitting hairs. I was clarifying your choice of the word "chosen," not "reject." I didn't "choose" my beliefs, I reached them through study.

Perhaps he would wonder about the miracle of birth. Perhaps he would wonder how science could explain how things work but couldn't explain why things are so beautiful.

Your use of "miracle" presumes that which you are trying to prove. However, it is likely that, if he were a man of a certain disposition, he would be taken by the beauty of life and the Universe. However, I don't see why this would make him seek a God. Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer and atheist, found more beauty and wonder in his science than most religious people do in their religions. I personally find photographs from the Hubble telescope breathtaking, and find much beauty in nature and human relationships. I'm awed by the power of evolution. Beauty does not imply God.

Jack's Shack said...

I didn't "choose" my beliefs, I reached them through study.

That is significant. So many people just accept whatever is spoonfed to them.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: Just to clarify, I haven't "chosen to reject it," I simply don't believe it's true.

I had this argument in the Christian discussion forum @ work (now defunct)

I stated that I did not "choose" my belief but that I was compelled by the evidence & the arguments to believe it.

Sadie Lou said...

*laughing*
Regardless of how you guys came to your conclusion--you are choosing something over something else. Why the whole "I'm compelled by the evidence--blah blah" I think by saying you didn't "choose" you are trying to make the alternative sound unintelligent.
I'm compelled by evidence to accept Christianity. That's a choice.

Jewish Atheist said...

I'm compelled by evidence to accept Christianity. That's a choice.

Are you compelled, or is it a choice? It can't be both.

Sadie Lou said...

I make a choice based on the evidence. Why are we misunderstanding each other on this?

Jack's Shack said...

Language is important.

Jewish Atheist said...

I make a choice based on the evidence. Why are we misunderstanding each other on this?

Because one is convinced by evidence; one doesn't "choose" a belief. If you were convinced by evidence that Christianity is true, you didn't "choose" to believe in Christianity, you were (as you put it) compelled to believe in Christianity.

Sadie Lou said...

I still think the choice of words is splitting hairs.
You can stop using the words choice, choose, althogether. I feel compelled to eat at Taco Bell instead of McDonalds.

Laura said...

Words are very important. Remember that the words you choose to describe something have meaning that is both shaped by and also shapes the world we live in. To Compell means the momentum came external from you. Someone else compells you to do something. Choice comes from within.

We all choose what evidence we are going to accept as valid and what evidence we are going to reject. Do you actively choose to accept the evidence for creationism, or does God or belief in God play a part in that? Does the choice come from within, or come from what God wants you to do.

I hear Christians often refer to "God's Plan" - that emphasizes someone being compelled from without, to accept circumstances. That is the way someone else (God) wants it. There is a huge difference between the words.

Jewish Atheist said...

I still think the choice of words is splitting hairs.
You can stop using the words choice, choose, althogether. I feel compelled to eat at Taco Bell instead of McDonalds.


Words have meanings. "Choosing" is entirely a different thing than "being compelled." They mean significantly different things. It's the difference between jumping off a cliff and being pushed.

Jack's Shack said...

It's the difference between jumping off a cliff and being pushed.

So true.

DNA said...

Not that this is how I feel personally, but if you need a sample response here goes: (since my background is Jewish, I'll take that route)

It's true. One would never know at what point during the 15 billion year apparent history of the universe it was created. First, it's not relevant to our lives. And second, some things God has chosen to convey to us through revelation which would not be available to us using purely our intelect. The age of the universe is one of these things. You have no other recourse than reading the bible.

(Of course it's bunk. Humanity didn't start with one man and woman 6000 years ago. And we didn't start over with a global flood.)

JC Masterpiece said...

Nobody will independently find Genesis in the physical evidence.
It's funny, because oftentimes data points in multiple directions. The same data could bring multiple conclusions. The scientist chooses the conclusions he focuses on and wants to highlight and his "findings" reflect that. When combined with data and "findings" from similarly thinking scientists a norm is often created. Other scientists build on the norms of previous scientists so that the data that actually prives multipe things is now accepted as only proving one thing.

As for proof of Genesis, there has been numerous evidence for the flood story mentioned in this blog alone. Yet you say that here is no proof. That is a rejection of Genesis based on your chosen beliefs and not for a lack of evidence.

Assume that there is a smart, curious man who has never heard of the Christian God or the Bible. All he has to help him figure out how the Universe came about are the scientific data and theories.

Here we go again. Attempting to creat "lab conditions" to "prove" / "disprove" something that is so much more than "the lab".
First, there is no condition that place a man in a situation that he has all the ability to conduct scientific studies, but no ability to have religious ones. Thus it falls into the same criticisms that even the scientific community has of strict lab work. Even in the former Solviet Union where religion was basically banned, religion was still accessible for those who were interested. It was imbedded in the culture, a part of society, and there were numerous underground churches. Even in the USSR it was not able to be eliminated through fear tactics, laws, and cultural changes, but rather it continued to thrive. Thus, your study should fall apart at the seams.

JC Masterpiece said...

Just to clarify, I haven't "chosen to reject it," I simply don't believe it's true.

Wow, i didn't think that i'd find this argument here. This is something that i am constantly having to teach my clients.
Many of my clients have a victim view of their life. They have no choice in how they act. They are compelled to act as they do. It's not their fault that they broke into someone's house or threatened to kill their teacher. They were compelled to do it. They are the victims. Many times the success or failure of a client in inpatient treatment where i work is the ability to recognize that they have a choice and to take responsibility for that choice. You say that you are compelled and have no choice, but the reality is that you have made a choice. After all, as long as you hold to a victim mentality than you have no responsibility for your actions.

Jewish Atheist said...

Many times the success or failure of a client in inpatient treatment where i work is the ability to recognize that they have a choice and to take responsibility for that choice.

Hmm. I see what you are saying. Alcoholics, for example, sometimes choose to live in denial. The question then is what constitutes a "belief." Is an alcoholic's "belief" that he is not an alcoholic a real belief, or is it a lie he constantly tells himself but knows deep down is false? I think the "deep down" belief is the one you can't choose but must be compelled to.

Could you "choose" to believe that apples are so poisonous that eating one means instant death? Or, if suddenly apples started killing millions of people, could you "choose" to believe that they didn't?

Anonymous said...

Taking this back to Eric's comment to my comment:

JA responded, to my comment: It's [faith] bad because you're believing something that probably isn't true. Do I really need to explain why that's bad?

Eric clarified: Believing in something that is probably wrong isn't a bad thing in and off itself (not that its a good thing, but its mostly harmless). It's when fundies take their faith driven irrational 'truth', hop on the steamroller of majority rule and proceed to drive the educational system back to the 11th century that it becomes a bad thing.

I don't disagree with Eric one iota. Faith becomes dangerous when it becomes the driving force to the total exclusion of other potential answers, solutions or ideas. That phenomenon is what makes non-fundamentalists cringe at the activities of fundamentalists.

JA, on the other hand, you're being irrational yourself. Why do you insist that what I've called faith "probably isn't true"? Says who? When did the pendulum swing so sharply on a subject about which whatever evidence exists, if it exists at all, is inconclusive? You don't even know what it is that I believe, so you cannot possibly know how the evidence plays out.

It has been said that there are no truths; that what we call a "truth" is just a theory that we haven't disproven yet. Until we get to that point - and if I'm not pushing you to adopt my ways or pushing you down if you don't - what is it to you whether what I believe is true or not? It's my faith, it's my belief, and it isn't hurting anyone. If your random man you discuss in your post comes to the same belief, is that a problem?

Don't get me wrong: I'm certainly no frummie, and I found your site because I've got my own questions about religion and Judaism. You're generally doing a great job here. But be careful not to let your hostility toward some of the faithful cause you to be unfairly hostile toward all. Not everyone who believes in G-d wears a black hat...

Jewish Atheist said...

You don't even know what it is that I believe, so you cannot possibly know how the evidence plays out.

Anonymous, I wasn't talking about what you believe, I was talking about your definition of faith:

Faith, at least as we comprehend it in Western religions, in large part involves the suppression of that which is first and most easily perceived and believed, for the sake of a belief or perception that cannot be "rationally" reached.

If you are, by your own admission, suppressing that which is easily percieved for the sake of a belief which cannot be rationally reached, you're *probably* wrong. Is that so controversial?