Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Would it matter?

David and I were talking when we were in Puerto Rico, and we had walked passed the waterfall in the picture. A question he asked got me thinking about young earth creationism. I'd phrase the question as, "If God used evolution to create the earth, but in 6, 24-hour periods, how would we know? Would the scientific evidence show anything different than the 6 billion year history that science talks about?"

Unless I'm way out to lunch on that question, then I'm thinking that the process is the key issue, not the time involved. The real question is the mechanism of creation, not the time involved. So, did God create with a magical zap where things appeared out of thin air? That's the general gist of the way I viewed creation when I was young-earth in my thinking. Or, did he create via the process of developing life slowly and methodically via evolution, with steps indicated by scientific evidence?

If I'm on to anything here, then we should shift the discussion from "How long?" to "How?". "How long?" is a dead end discussion anyway. We've not gotten any closer to resolving that conflict over the past 160 years, and I don't see anything on the horizon that will make resolution any easier. But, the discussion of "How" might be more productive.

Please help me out here with your thoughts. I've got more thoughts from the Puerto Rico trip, including questions about the role of awe and wonder, but I'll hold off on those until we kick the current question around some.


Anonymous said...

Its interesting that you posted on this as i have been thinking abouut this as well. The question of how is a great one. We look at the way things are shaped by natural forces now and assume that is how it happened and and it has always happened that way in the past. The "how long" question is a dead question because if you could "prove" a young earth model then evolution would be impoosible. Answering "how" will be good in describing and understanding the development of species, but not so good i feel in the explanation of the origin of life.


Chris Morrow said...

hmmm... "how?" versus "how long?". so, if i'm understanding your question, you think it may be more beneficial to put forward the evolutionary process as opposed the length of time required for it to take place.
i don't see how you can divide the two or why you should try. the theory is dependent millions of years and will not fit into a young earth model.
i can appreciate trying to make evolution accessible to young earthers, but you'd have to water it down.
I think you should reread your Churchill quote.

JNoah said...

In response to Chris's comment: I think, and correct me if I'm wrong here, Lee, is that you're not trying to divide them, but to reverse the way we've traditionally gone about proving or disproving. In other words, in the past we've always said, "Well, if the earth's old, that tends to prove evolution, and if it's young that tends to prove creationism." (Forgive the simplicity. It's for the sake of space.)

But what you seems to be proposing is that the method will inevitably lead us to answering the question of age. Have I gotten that?

JNoah said...

I would be careful about language like, "Would it matter?" simply because it's the same kind of question that's posed by people who say, "Would it matter if Jesus and Mary Magdeline were really married?" Of course, the answer is "no," but where that path heads really, really does.

Chris Morrow said...

so, in light of jnoah's comment, let me give it another try.

if you ask the question "how did life form?", the question, "how long did it take for life to form?" is implied. if the evidence for the first question leads you towards evolution, geological time is implied.

If it leads you somewhere else, like biblical creationism, the young earth model is implied.

Instead of bothering with the question of age initially, allow the biological evidence to point you to the process. Then that process will point you towards age.

Lee said...

Chris: thanks for raising the question, (JNoah: Thanks for helping to clarify.) What you say in your second post is what I'm thinking, and the key word to me is where you say "evidence." Like you said, "Instead of bothering with the question of age initially, allow the biological evidence to point you to the process. Then that process will point you towards age."

So, I guess the key for people on both sides of the argument is the definition of acceptable evidence. As I get my head out of the sand, I'm just seeing piles and piles of evidence that points to a a story of origins similar to that told by biological evolution. But, I know people on the Creationism side have evidence that they think is discounted by the scientific community. I just see so many weaknesses in their lines of evidence; so, I can't buy a short-earth model.

Am I making sense or just saying the same things over and over again?

Lee said...

JNoah: Help me out, please, with understanding your caution about the question, "Would it matter?". I'm probably too far into my science world when I say that it wouldn't matter, and I appreciate your perspective. I was thinking that if God created through an evolutionary process, but did so actually in 144 hours (6 days x 24 hours/day), we couldn't tell because the scientific evidence would have been laid down in such a way that it would look like 6 billion years.

Sounds like, though, that you read my question differently.

JNoah said...

Lee, thanks for the clarification in your last post. It's helpful, and I think I did misunderstand the question you were asking. (Probably, my response seemed out of left field somewhat! I have this image of your head jerking back, and you saying something like, "What?! Mary Magdeline?! Where did that come from?!")

At any rate, what I meant was that sometimes the answer to the question, "Would it matter?" is, of course, no, BUT the path that answering "no" to that question can lead down definitely does matter.

Thus: "Would it matter if the world was created over the course of millions of years as opposed to six, literal, 24-hour days?" No. But, if that answer leads us (sooner or later) in ANY way, shape, or form to lessen God's influence, involvement, etc. in the process, then our initial answer really, really matters.

Chris Morrow said...

really? 144 hours could look like 6 billion years? elaborate please.

JNoah said...

Follow-up. . . and I would not limit this to the issue of evolution or even science.

Lee said...

JNoah: I'm with you on your concern about our initial answers "in ANY way, shape, or form [lessening] God's influence, involvement, etc. in the process," but I wonder if this is where I become a raving science lunatic or, worse, a heretic? Since I don't want to put my head in the sand anymore, then I'm following the evidence trail wherever it leads. My theology tells me that the evidence really will lead me to God as Creator, but am I in error here? As I read your comment, you're taking it differently, advising caution against a scientific study that would lead us to doubt God's involvement. Or, am I putting words in your mouth?

Lee said...

Chris: Maybe it's a dumb idea after all. That's what I'm learning to like about blogging this stuff out. I get really good feedback, like what you're giving me.

I guess I'm skirting close to what I consider to be a bad argument from the Creationist side. A not-to-be-named-yet-you-could-easily-guess-who pastor that I respect mucho believes that God might have created the world with an appearance of age. So, the world was created in 144 hours, but God could have made mountains to look billions of years old. to me, that whole line of reasoning makes God sound like a liar. He's purposely creating deceptive evidence.

So, my possibly-really-dumb idea was that God could supernaturally have used classic evolution to create the world, but done it within 24 hours periods. Now, I'm realizing how little that makes sense. So, I'm back to where I was before that waterfall walk with David to thinking that God used the processes of evolution over a long period of time to create the world. In essence, I'm back to old-earth creation.

JNoah said...

Lee, I think what I would say is that YES, I am absolutely advising caution against a scientific study that would lead us to doubt God. BUT, I'm not saying that this particular scientific study necessarily will lead to that point. (Back to where we started, well, maybe. That, in and of itself, could be an answer.)

What I like and really admire about your attitude on this is that you trust your God and your theology enough to believe that it is stronger than any science and that it cannot be defeated by anything. That's good. There's no reason for you to be an ostrich with its head in the sand. We don't need to live in fear of what might be out there.

Chris Morrow said...

this is a two for one comment...

back to the original question of would it matter, I have a hangup about skirting the question of age. As jnoah said, we shouldn't limit scientific inquiry to evolution. christians who are going to be good scientists (and moreover good thinkers) need to be challenged to ask the age question based on the evidence for it, biological or not. not so much for sake of knowing the age of the earth, but for having the courage to pursue a line inquiry that we are uncomfortable with.

that leads into my second part. in response to jnoah, i think doubting what i believe is vital. processing the apparent conflict between evolution and literal creationism is important for me to take greater ownership of my faith. i would encourage others go down paths that may cause them to doubt, paths like - "has the bible been falsified?" or "what has really informed my faith, persuasive people, or God working in my heart?" I think they're important questions, especially for those of us who have doubt whispering. we should bring it out in the open a deal with it.

Lee said...

JNoah and Chris: I'm with both of you. I just don't have the words yet to describe the pursuit I'm on to understand the scientific evidence no matter where it leads. I guess maybe that's just it. There's a part that scares me. Where will it lead? But, then, like JNoah implied, I believe that the Truth always leads us back to He who created the Heavens and the Earth. Maybe, though, I have a little bit of doubt about that that I'm not admitting to myself.