Friday, July 11, 2003

Creation and Science Part 4

This is part 4 of a series that examines the evidence for a universe created by an Intelligent Designer. I would say that this Designer/Creator is the God of the Bible, but the evidence for this second bit will need to come later. To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

The Anthropic Principle has made the discussion of a Creator respectable again. Even those who draw different conclusions from the principle, will acknowledge the possibility that God exists. Martin Reese in his book Just Six Numbers-The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe writes:

There are various ways of reacting to the apparent fine tuning of our six numbers. One hard-headed response is that we couldn't exist if these numbers weren't adjusted in the appropriate 'special' way: we manifestly are here, so there's nothing to be surprised about. Many scientists take this line, but it certainly leaves me unsatisfied. I'm impressed by a metaphor given by the Canadian philosopher John Leslie. Suppose you are facing a firing squad. Fifty marksman take aim, but they all miss. If they hadn't all missed, you would not have survived to ponder the matter. But you wouldn't just leave it at that-you'd still be baffled, and would seek some further reason for your good fortune.

Others adduce the 'tuning' of the numbers as evidence for a beneficent Creator, who formed the universe with the specific intention of producing us (or, less anthropocentrically, of permitting intricate complexities to unfold). This is in the tradition of William Paley and other advocates of the so-called 'argument from design' for God's existence. Variants of it are now espoused by eminent scientist-theologians such as John Polkinghorn; he writes that the universe is 'not just "any old world," but it's special and finely tuned for life because it is the creation of a Creator who wills that it be so'.

If one doesn't accept the 'providence' argument, there is another perspective, which-though still conjectural-I find compellingly attractive. It is that our Big Bang may not have been the only one. ...[Reese, Martin. Just Six Numbers-The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe (Basic Books, 2000) p.148-150

Martin Reese goes on to propose a multiverse by which our universe is special and finally tuned because there are many other lifeless ones. At least some of the variations would support life.

Read the passage again: Who is hard-headed? Who is eminent? Would he declare silly or unlearned or sloppy someone who concluded, from the six numbers, that there was a beneficent Creator? Has he ruled God out? Answering these questions should underscore for you the opportunities for proclaiming the gospel among the scientific community.

Last time, I wrote about the catch in all this. We have a universe that conforms to the words of David, "The heavens tell of the Glory of God." Martin Reese's six numbers and two-thirds of similar Anthropic Principle evidences, listed by Hugh Ross, conform to an old universe. They do not work and must be discarded if we insist that the universe is only thousands of years old.

My original intent at this point was to open up Genesis 1 and explore how that it does not necessarily rule out an old universe. I am aware that there are problems with these different approaches, but then there are problems anyway. But I am going to defer this discussion for a day and, instead, make an appeal to the creation science community.

There is a motivation for this series that is unlike any I have ever had within my 33 years as a Christian. There was a young man in my church who was becoming a friend. He attended the classes that I taught. He was bright and serious about his faith and life. But when he learned that I prefer an old universe model, he broke fellowship with me and left the church. The witness of my life, my family, and the value he received from my teaching were not enough for him to even ask about my views. For him, my view in this area is a matter of heresy.

I have never been labeled a heretic before.

An Appeal to the Creation Science Community

  1. Creation and evolution are in many ways separate issues. I imagine that no one who holds to a young earth considers macro-evolution to have happened. Many holding an old earth position have come to the same conclusion. Indeed some of the best articulation of macro-evolution's shortcomings have come from old universe creationists. This certainly includes Michael Behe who wrote Darwin's Black Box and Phillip E. Johnson who wrote Darwin on Trial.
  2. Big Bang cosmology, Einstein's special and general theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, diverse dating methods, etc. form an interrelated and consistent view of the universe. Its ability to explain and predict physical phenomenon gives support to its strength. The Anthropic Principle fits within this scheme. This view of the universe does not, in truth, provide any support for macro-evolution, nor, for the Christian, does it deny the special creation of living things in general and man in particular.
  3. If indeed the earth is young, there should exist a scientific model that supports it -- unless God just wanted the earth and the universe to look old. However, it will need to be as strong and internally consistent as the current main stream cosmology. It will have to have the same predictive and explanatory power of the conventional model. Note that it will be impossible to develop such a model until the strength of the conventional model is taken seriously.
  4. It is better to affirm a literal 6 day creation while acknowledging the strength of the conventional model than to counter the conventional model with insufficiently developed ideas. The former will provide a firm foundation and is consistent with Christian values. If we teach our young people to defend their faith on careless research and they discover such, through their own studies or trying to argue against those well armed, we will lose many of them.
  5. We not only have to reconcile Genesis 1 with cosmology, but Psalm 19 and Romans 1. This is especially true of Romans 1, which tells us that men are without excuse because the creation tells us enough about God to come under His judgment. The Anthropic Principle, which comes out of generally accepted cosmology, satisfies the spirit of Paul's warnings here. The current young earth arguments fail to do this. Think of Martin Reese's words above, where he acknowledges the possibility of a beneficent Creator. Would he draw the same from any study of creation science material? I think not. So, let's imagine that Martin Reese says to himself one day, "The multiverse explanation is maybe not so good after all. Let me explore the existence of God." So he goes to a church and begins to see that Christianity might have something to offer. Then he finds out that the condition for belonging is to hold to a universe that is only thousands of years old. Would he go along? Have we served the cause of Christ? Would it not be better to say? "We have some who trust Genesis 1 to be literally true. They acknowledge that there are problems with this view, but they trust that by the end of the age, that view will find vindication. We have others who see that science has a strong argument in this area, and they have other views of Genesis 1. They acknowledge that this view has problems as well. However, we respect each other's viewpoints and all who call on the Name of the Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead are welcome to break the bread of Christian fellowship here."

In our seeking to rightly divide the Word of Truth, may God keep us from wrongfully dividing each other.

Monday: Getting to Genesis 1

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Back online

Some memory was bad. My laptop is working again. Will post part 4 for Friday.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Trouble on the road

I am traveling on business and the laptop that I am using is very unreliable. I am not able to post anything today and I am not sure about the next few days. I hope to have the situation resolved before long. God's blessings.

Creation and Science -- Part 3

The Anthropic Principle and other evidence for Intelligent Design in the universe provides a vehicle by which we Christians can talk about the God who is there. However, as I alluded to on Friday there is a catch.

The Catch

I can best introduce the catch by relating how the Institute for Creation Research treats the Anthropic Principle. ICR Impact 149, Design in Nature, the Anthropic Principle, mentions these "three examples of design."

  1. Proton Mass
  2. Gravitational Force
  3. Strength of Electrical Charges

The ICR impact article, while mentioning that there are other parameters, lists these three, because they are independent of the universe's age. In other words, it is safe to quote these examples. The truth is that much of the Anthropic Principle relates to a universe that appears to be several billions of years old. Hugh Ross lists 34 examples of fine tuning in the universe. Of these, some 24 have value only within current scientific cosmology that asserts the universe is from 10-15 billion years old and the earth 4.5 billion years old. Let me put this another way. The Big Bang cosmology  tells us that the universe had a beginning and that it is reasonable to assert that a master designer knew just what constants were needed to fashion at least one planet on which life that could know and love Him.

Indeed, not only in Astronomy, but in biochemistry, evidence for design is more and more apparent. Michael Behe's excellent book, Darwin's Black Box, contains chapter after chapter of finely tuned chemical reactions that support such things as sight, blood clotting, and sending messages within the cell. He tells of molecular machines in the cells. For him, each of these examples exhibit what he calls "irreducible complexity" by which he means that you cannot remove a single component and have anything left but non-functioning pieces. He has challenged the Darwinian community to theorize their creation without a designer. Michael Behe has met with great ridicule, but know one to my knowledge has answered his challenge.

In light of this, I had to take a long hard look at some facts:

  1. Creation means that God created the heavens and the earth. Whether they are young or old is not an a priori requisite.
  2. Whether the heavens and the earth are thousands of years old or billions of years old has no bearing on whether macroevolution occurred. An honest look at the evidence for macroevolution shows it to be unlikely. An old earth does not imply macroevolution.
  3. If one accepts the evidence for an old universe, one has a broad foundation from which to argue for the God's existence. That foundation is firmer than arguing from a young earth viewpoint. The Anthropic Principle and Intelligent Design arguments are very compelling, and although not everyone will accept our conclusions, they are nonetheless reasonable conclusions. Along these lines, it would seem as if "The heavens declare the Glory of God." It also confirms Paul's words in Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

The Anthropic Principle seems to reveals God's eternal power and divine nature in a way consistent with Paul's words on general revelation.

One must now reconcile evidence which supports Psalm 19 and Romans 1, but seemingly contradicts Genesis 1. This is a real problem and cannot be taken lightly.

  • We can say the universe and the earth are some 6,000 years old, put up with sloppy scientific efforts to prove this, close the gospel to those who simply cannot go there, and be left to wonder why God would create a universe with such apparent age. Genesis 1 is preserved in its generally accepted understanding, but one might even wonder what God has made evident to unbelievers. The cosmic distance ladder-by which we deduce that certain stars are 10,000 light years distance, and certain galaxies are 2,000,000 light years distance-is easy to grasp and hard to refute. Why has God created such a contradiction? The best hope is that science might find itself in a jam from which a young earth emerges as an only solution. If the earth and universe are that young, I predict that such an upheaval will occur before the end.
  • We can say the universe and the earth are billions of years old, challenge the scientific community to acknowledge evidence for design, open the gospel to those who feel compelled to accept evidence of an old earth, and marvel at the fine tuning of the creation. For this we have to see if there are alternative understandings of Genesis 1. This is a dangerous undertaking. In taking this step, will we find the rest of the scriptures eroding away? Are we thumbing our noses at God and refusing to accept Him at His word and trust Him? Is it a test by which He requires us to trust Him over the works of man? 

Neither position is without tension. Because of that, we must seek understanding with humility and extend the hand of friendship to those who do not see things as we do. It is possible to look at Genesis 1 in a different light. On the other hand, it is not always safe to base theology on contemporary scientific views. There are scientists who still attempt to dethrone Big Bang cosmology. If they succeed, it may render the Anthropic Principle meaningless. Faith must still rest on the Bible, and those who hold the generally accepted reading of Genesis 1 may be all the wiser, in the final analysis.

Still, the possibility of reconciling Genesis with an old creation is worth exploring. And that is where I will go from here. In doing so, I do not disdain those who by faith alone accept a young earth. Salvation comes from believing that God raised Jesus from the dead: a scientific impossibility. so, the Bible must be exalted above science. However, we are in an area of study that connects to the Bible in two different ways. We either have to adjust our understanding of Psalm 19 and Romans 1, which tell us that we can know God from His creation, or adjust our understanding of Genesis 1, which implies a young universe.

Tuesday: An Appeal to the Creation Science Community

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>