"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Nov 30, 2008

Starlight and Young Earth Creationism

Young Earth Creationism is probably the most bizarre of the various strands of "Intelligent" Design religious fundamentalist beliefs. Young earth Creationists believe that the earth is little more than around 6,000 years old and that ancient life forms, such as the dinosaurs, all lived within this timescale. They take a literal view of the Biblical Genesis account. Even those creationists who don't flaunt a Young Earth creationist view tend to hum and haw about their real views about the age of the Earth because fundamentalists generally have a problem squaring the biblical account with an Earth that is around 4.5 Billion years old. Scratch at the surface of any fundamentalist creationist or believer in "Intelligent Design" and there is often a Young Earth Creationist just under the surface.

Trying to read Genesis as a literal account of creation is of course problematic because it flies in the face of so much scientific evidence not least the fossil record. I was thinking about this whole issue again recently and a major problem with the Genesis account struck me. Lets call it The Creationist Starlight problem.

Young earth creationists are quite literal in their interpretation of the supposed seven days of creation in the Bible. They see them as seven actual days.

According to the Bible on the fourth day;

14: And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16: And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17: And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18: And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19: And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Ok so God made the sun and the moon and the stars on the fourth day. We will ignore the problem that he actually made light a few days earlier ( where did that come from then?).

Lets just think about the Stars that he made for a moment.

Lets take a fundamentalist view and assume that he did make all the stars on the fourth day.

So he makes the Sun, and the light from the sun takes say eight minutes to get from the Sun to the Earth. No problem so far.

And he also makes the nearest star to us, Proxima Centauri , which is approximately 4.3 light years from us.... so the light from the nearest star arrives ... Just a minute... hang on! There is a bit of a problem here isn't there? If Proxima Centauri is 4.3 light years from the Earth then the light from that star takes 4.3 years to reach the Earth. So there couldn't have been any stars twinkling in the sky at the end of the fourth day because the light was still on its way. Funny that there is no mention of this.

Now most stars are much much further away from the earth so there would be no way that any appreciable star light would have reached the earth for many many years after the supposed Biblical creation. So how is it that again that there is no mention of this in the Bible?

Some creationists like to try to get around this by trying to argue that the speed of light has changed in the six thousand years that they say have passed since the Earth was created. This would still leave the problem that over those six thousand years more and more stars would be appearing in the sky as their light gradually reached Earth. Again, no mention of this in the Bible. Surely someone must have noticed given that we know the ancients were obsessed with the stars.

It's a real problem for the fundamentalists this one I think.


Delirious said...

We believe that God took some materials that were already in existence to create this earth. In additional scripture that we have in our church He said, "And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten... But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them... The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

The materials that He used to make this planet were definitely much older.

Bunc said...

I suppose that when Josepph Smith authored the Book of Mormon (which is I assume where your scripture comes from) he had the benefit of a slightly more modern knowledge of stars and planets than did the various authors of the old testament.

In this respect I suppose it is not so surprising then that he acknowledges there being "other worlds".

Delirious said...

Actually, we have more additional scripture than just the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon was not written by Joseph Smith, but translated from gold plates. The gold plates were written by the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Similar plates have been found throughout the world. The book of scripture I was referring to was the Book of Moses. This was scripture that was given by revelation. It contained verses that were originally included in the Bible, but which were lost. Our religion is the only one that believes in modern revelation and continuing scripture. We believe that God speaks today as He did in times of old through a Prophet. We also believe that more scripture could come forth.

But you must remember that Joseph Smith only had a grade school education. He simply could not have known many of the things that were included in the verses of scripture that he translated, both in the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Moses, and others.

Prophetic Bunc said...

Clearly Muslims also believed in further revelation after the time of Christ because that is the basis of their religion also.

So how is one to tell a false prophet from a real one then? Seems to be a bit of a problem that one. If someone claims prophesy how is this to be disproved?

In regard to the authorship of the Book of Mormon you are I assume aware of the extensive analysis that was done on the text of the Book which showed it having a strong resemblance to other writings by Joseph Smith?

Before he "found" the supposed golden tablets which are now "lost" he was working as a supposed crystal diviner and treasure hunter. How convenient for him then that he had been claiming that there was something major buried near where he lived and that later it truned out that he found these earth shattering tablets buried in a hill near his own back door !
Praise the Lord and pass the collection plate!

Interestingly, when he was involved in supposedly "translating" these tablets why was it that he frequently had to do so out of site of those doing the transcribing by shouting the translation from another room?

Hmmm. Reading from stuff he had already scribbled down perhaps? or maybe the light from the tablets was just too blinding ;-)ROFL

As for the contents of the Book of Mormon well were do we start? Lost tribes of Israel in America? Ancient battles and civilisations in America? Sadly for the Church of LDS none of this seems to have left any discoverable Archaeological record. How strange.

The Boook of Mormon ( which I have had the misfortune of actually reading) is drivel from start to finish. It was clearly authored as a religious/treasure hunting scam by a family already involved in that kind of activity. It doesn't even have the merit of having historical relevancy which at least the Bible does to some extent.

The LDS are simply an odd of-shoot cult of Christianity. None of which makes you personally a bad person though.

Delirious said...

Actually, much of what you have said is way off base as far as current studies go. In fact, studies have shown that the word patterns of each separate book within the Book of Mormon are consistent with separate authors. And in fact, there are many archaelogical supports of the Book of Mormon. I could give you many links to read, but I don't really think there is a point when you don't believe in God in the first place. ;)
As for Joseph hiding the plates, you should know that there were many witnesses who were allowed to view them. They all wrote their witnesses down, and never denied their words in their lifetime. But that is really beside the point. You asked how a person could know a good prophet from a bad one. The answer is the same to know if a thing is true or not, or if a thing is from God or not, or if there is a God or not. This might be difficult for you to understand, having no basis or association with God, but a person can pray to God and get an answer. I've done that, and I am certain of the answers I received. I have no doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet, or that the Book of Mormon is what he claimed it to be. God doesn't work with evidence because evidence can be manipulated. In addition, people can always explain things away. A true miracle could happen before your eyes, and you would be able to find some way to explain it away. This is where faith comes in. Faith may not be as comfortable to you as physical evidence, but faith is the thing that God wants us most to learn in this life. Dang....I need to run or I'll be late to seminary. I might come back and leave some more comments. later. :)

Marf said...

We all know God was smart enough to set the light already in route to Earth when He created the stars. So your argument is invalid. No need to change a universal constant of the universe like the speed of light... It's just God's magic. Yeah...

@ Delirious: So, if new scripture is possible, what if I suddenly became a prophet and said I have written new scripture for the Mormon faith? How would you disprove me? You've already said you don't use evidence (as it can be manipulated), so we're down to faith. You best have faith in what I've written and accept it as religious law or else God will not be happy with you.

And don't try to "explain away" the validity of my writings, either. Just have faith. God wants you to.

Delirious said...

Well, there are several criteria I could use, in addition to praying to God to know. For one, I would look to see if what you taught was consistent with God's teachings. If you were teaching me to slaughter innocent people, for example, that would be a safe bet that you weren't a real prophet. The second criteria is that you would have to be called of God by the existing Twelve apostles, and would have had to have been ordained by them. They are the ones who hold the priesthood power of God on the earth today. That is the organization that the Lord set up. It isn't just a random free for all to see who will be the next prophet when the old one dies.

I think the third really crucial test would be to know if you were athiest or not. Because I'm sorry Marf, that definitely rules you out. ;)

Bunc said...

The great Prohet Marf has spoken and I have faith in him. And by sheer coincindence I also felt moved with faith this evening and was blessed with prophesy that fortold that Delirious is going to be a little ticked of at all this mickey taking but that being a good sort will not take offense.

Archaeological Bunc said...

Delirious - You mean the original twelve Apostles? I thought they were dead long before Joseph Smith "found" those tablets? Or would that be "Apostles" of the LDS? If so then who actually appointed them and on what authority?

In regard to the Tablets I would be greatly interested in any links to information about similar tablets found around the world.

Please do post any links to archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon. To my knowledgge the only evidence of inhabitants prior to Native Indian culture were the proto-indian Clovis people of North America. I must have missed the announcement of major archaeological finds of previously unknown ancient civilisations in North America. I like to keep up to date with these things.

Anonymous said...

It's all a crock for people who haven't the stamina to live their own lives. Religion is the evil we should be wary of.


Douglas said...

What you need to do, in my opinion, is not to look for ways to debunk the bible but to examine the reasons why all cultures have creation stories.

Bunc said...

Hi Argentum - noice to hear from you. Will vist you soon.

I dont agree. I think we should debunk the bible because there has been a significant growth in the size and influence of fundamentalist groups and their nonsense needs to be shown up for what it is.

In regard to the fact that all cultures have creation stories - I agree that this merits discussion. However these stories vary wildly between cultures which suggests to me that they are .... stories - all of them, every single one, including the biblical story of creation.

They clearly can't all be true and if that is the case then why should the Bible genesis story be any more likely to be the true than any of the others?

Creation stories, in my opinion, provide the roots of the role of religion in human culture so it is important not only to address their "truth" but also not to give any one of them a special place. That is if you want to be rational in thinking about religion. Lots of religious people don't.

Delirious said...

lol well, you are definitely not a prophet Bunc because I'm not upset. :P Actually, I don't know why, but there is something about you guys that reminds me of something my father used to say: "Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell and make them happy about the trip." I don't know that tact would be the word I would use in your situation ;) but even when you are slandering our religion, even in the very act, you still make me laugh. lol

And to answer your question, no not the original twelve apostles. Our church believes in the same organization that existed in the early church. We have a modern day prophet and twelve living apostles. This is the organization the Lord set up when He was on the Earth, and we have it in our church today. The Quorum of the twelve apostles is a very interesting leadership tool. The Prophet, with the apostles, pray for revelation to know who will be the next incoming apostle should one die. In fact, one just died this morning, Joseph B. Wirthlin. They will pray to know who God wants to replace him. That person will take their place at the end of the line so to speak. Should the Prophet die, the most senior apostle is then made prophet, with the approval of the quorum of the twelve apostles. They all pray for confirmation before making any decision.

After Jesus died, the apostles carried on the organization of the church for a number of years, with Peter taking the role of prophet. But as persecutions heated up, the apostles were each killed, until there were no living apostles on the earth. The Catholic church believes that the organization continued from there, and most other churches are off shoots from them. We believe, however, that there was an apostasy, and that the church of God was not on the earth for a number of years. It was restored to the Earth in these latter days through Joseph Smith. The church today is organized like the church Jesus Himself set up. And that my friend, is probably more than you really wanted to hear. :)

Looney said...

Bunc, I should state that yes, there are things that I can't reconcile, but then again, I am quite certain that the Bible leaves a lot of information out.

In any case, I would be happy if atheists would acknowledge that the spontaneous generation of the first organism capable of evolution is no less problematic.

Bunc said...

Spontaneous generation of the first organism is indeed problemetic. However that's not really what is hypothesised - a progression from self catalysing organic chemicals leading to the first organism would probably be more accurate.

You a right however that the Theory of Evolution doesn't actually address this, it only addresses what happens after there are things replicating with modification. We are still "evidence light" on the actual start of life although there are pointers to how this might have happened in a natural way.

Re the Bible, - if there are things that can't be reconciled and a lot of things left out then why should anyone assume that God meant the Biblical account of Genesis to be read literally? If things were left out like this then a reasonable assumption is that it was because such thiings were beyond the ken of the audience ( bronze age peoples)ie The account was written in terms such people would understand. In consequence it makes no sense, even if you assume God authored the account, to assume that he meant modern people who have science to take the account lierally. QED I think.

Douglas said...

Ok, Bunc, stick your finger in the dike if that turns you on. But I have found that it is better to understand why something exists than it is to try to tear it down because you don't agree with it. There are many people who are atheists and then there are many more who think they are atheists but who are nothing more than anti-theists. You may not be ready to understand that yet.

Bunc said...

I would suggest that you read what I have written in this post (and eslewhere on this blog).
My post and my blog is not anti-theist in the way that you imply. I am not addressing the belief in God per se and generally haven't done that in this blog other than very occasionallly in the passing.

What I am addressing is the manifestation of Theism in the form of fundamentalism and the literal interpretation of religious texts where this clearly contradicts scientific evidence or rationality

In this blog I have therefore generally restricted myself to exposing the flaws in fundamentalism rather than engaging in a wider attack on theism per se. I have also attacked the way organised religion manifests itself but again this is not the same thing as anti-theism. To suggest taht organised religion is the same thing as God is surely blasphemous. Suerly by definition God must be greater than any man made organisation and the manifestation of mans beliefs? He's a pretty small God if there is no distinction.

To suggest that I am "sticking myy finger in the dyke" implies that somehow I am fighting a rearguard action against a flood of opposing evidence. If that is what you are maintaining perhaps you would care to enlighten me on what this evidence is? Bring it on.

All rationally expressed opinions are welcome here but be prepared to have them teased apart.

Looney said...

Bunc, looks like I need to monitor more carefully to figure out when things are added to these discussion lists. It seems that the notifications used to come automatically.

I have a few general rules of thumb based on a few decades of work with top researchers in mechanics. About 4 or 5 out of 10 researchers will master their field to the extent that they can parrot what they learned in college. Perhaps 1 in 10 will actually gain some degree of understanding so that he can recognize when a physical situation doesn't match the assumptions learned in college and make the necessary adjustments. These are the really talented ones. About 2 or 3 of the ten will have a huge ego and unrestrained ambition, but won't necessarily be the 1 in 10 with actual talent. Again, that is based on researchers working fairly closely to their original observable reality connected specialty, not people pontificating about something that happened a billion years ago.

With that in mind, we should note that biology is enormously more complex than mechanics, and much of astronomy is similarly complex based on multi-level hierarchies of assumptions. So yes, I can state that I might have some doubts about what Moses wrote. That being said, my first hand experience with Ivory Tower intellects precludes me from ranking them higher than Moses in understanding regarding these matters!

Bunc said...

Hmm. Looney I think we had this issue about Moses versus scientists before did we not?

It is a bit ad hominem and I am not sure therefore that what you have written really addresses the point that I made in my last comment to you above.

If we can demonstrate that major things were left out of the Biblical account (and the starlight problem certainly does appear to demonstrate this) then on what basis can it be argued that we should take any of it literally?

Looney said...

How about no credible alternative?

If a mass suddenly appears in a system, there will be all kinds of electro-magnetic and gravitational waves emanating from the source with some fairly drastic consequences. A creation account necessarily means creating both the mass and the fields together. God would certainly understand the linkage between the two better than any physicist, so it makes most sense to me that these are done together. Otherwise, you will get a rather Big Bang, which we all know is scientifically unacceptable!

Literally Bunc said...

LOL Looney, Of course you are right. It had to happen the way it says in the Bible otherwise there would need to have been a big bang at the beginning and that couldn't .... er hang on...

Certainly he couldnt have created the mass without the fields. That's not the issue. The question is whether the electromagnetic distubance emanating from the mass (ie the stars) was created "in situ" - ie already propagated throughout the distance of space.

This is the only way that the Bible account would make sense. It then all sounds very contrived and convoloted as an interpretation then doesn't it...and hardly a straightforward literal interpretation which is what fundamentalist Bible literalists want to defend.

In short you end up that you can only defend a literal interpretation by making adding non-literal augmentations to the explanation. Does that not strike you as er just a bit daft?

Looney said...

Bunc, certainly I am Looney, but it does seem to me that you are trying to assert a constraint on God - that even if God could create the mass, there is no way that He could create a steady state field in relation to the mass. I don't see why one is particularly harder than the other. On the other hand, I don't want to invest a lot of effort into defending one particular idea or another, because we are both arguing from a framework that is 99.999% ignorance.

Bunc said...

No I am certainly not arguing a constraint on God ( if he exists ). Quite the reverse. I am happy to accept any proposed actions by God that a literalist wants to suggest as a "get out of jail" on the starlight problem.

What I have shown is that the only way a literal interpretation can be supported in the face of this problem is to posit additional actions by God that aren't actually referred to in the Bible.

In other words the only defense a fundamentalist has of a literal Biblical Genesis interpretation is to add additional non-literal assumptions or explanations about Gods actions around Genesis. That's the death knell for literalism because it's a completely and utterly unresolvable contradictory position. Very simple really.

Ryan said...

Perhaps I'm a little late to the party, but earlier in the discussion, someone asked how we could judge whether someone was truly a prophet. I propose the following test, given by Moses, which seems to also be a good scientific test.

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:22

In other words, prophets are subject to "testability" just like any scientific hypothesis should be.

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