Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Spaceship earth

Rob Bowman Theologically, the question is whether that theory can avoid implying that God deliberately deceives us into thinking that the universe is older than it really is. 
JIM S Now this scenario is extremely contrived or ad hoc. But that's not the problem I have with it: the problem I have is that it ascribes deception to God. God is painting scenes on the sky that never happened, he is manipulating the universe to make it appear differently than what it actually is. 

I'm struck by how many otherwise smart, sophisticated Christians think this old chestnut is a convincing objection to young-earth creationism. I'd like to make three points:

i) The disapproving description of God painting scenes on the sky that never happened is unintentionally amusing. What about parents who put starry wallpaper on the ceiling of the nursery? When their child is old enough to make the shocking discovery that those are paper stars instead of real stars, can he justifiably accuse his parents of "deliberate deception? 

ii) Communication is a two-way street. For instance, there are some literal-minded adults who are tone-deaf to satire. They never recognize satire. They always read it straight. Then someone has to painfully explain to them that it's satirical. Was the satirist guilty of deception because some readers are naive?

iii) Finally, let's take a comparison. Most of us have grew up with science fiction. The furniture of science fiction includes artificial planets. Suppose an ancient civilization built a huge space station on the edge of its solar system. Suppose they made it look like their home planet. Why? So that colonists would feel right at home. 

Suppose a catastrophe overtakes the home planet. Communications are lost. Suppose a generation grows up on the space station, not knowing that this is an artificial planet. The history of the station is long forgotten. 

Suppose a geologist makes a surprising discovery. He uncovers an elevator that takes him to a subterranean control room. The planet is actually a space station! The climate is controlled by computers. Below the organic surface, with its rocks and rivers, fauna and flora, the planet is actually made of alloys, with subterranean machinery to regulate various terrestrial and atmospheric processes.

Does the archeologist conclude that the engineers deliberately deceived the survivors? No. He simply corrects his operating assumption. He made a reasonable, but mistaken assumption that they were living on a natural planet. In fact, he admires the technology. 

Or suppose I was raised on a holodeck. I never knew any better. The holodeck was the real world. Real for me. I have no other frame of reference. 

If I later find out it was just a holodeck, do I have reason to feel betrayed? Why? Am I entitled to expect that I wouldn't or shouldn't grow up on a holodeck? Was I supposed to be informed ahead of time that this is actually a holodeck? Or is that a presumptuous expectation? 

Real life is full of surprises. Especially in the past, many people were geographically isolated. Some never saw snow. To them a frozen pond would be unimaginable.  


  1. What about parents who put starry wallpaper on the ceiling of the nursery? When their child is old enough to make the shocking discovery that those are paper stars instead of real stars, can he justifiably accuse his parents of "deliberate deception?

    Great point!!!

  2. Steve, I understand if you delete this post because it's off topic. But I wanted to ask you or other presuppositionalists (e.g. "Mr. Fletcher" *g*) to possibly one day address the arguments an atheist friend of mine made against presuppositionalism. Specifically to his youtube video titled Presuppositionalism & Properly Basic Beliefs. After setting up the foundations for his argument against presuppositionalism in the first 28 minutes of the video (which is essential to his argument), he transitions into his argument against presuppositionalism for the last 6 min of the video HERE.

    I've been dialoguing with him for over a decade and he's very sharp (IMO). At least compared to me (but that's saying very little). He studied philosophy as a undergraduate and was knowledgeable enough that he was allowed to teach other undergraduates. His background is in epistemology. That was his the area of research when he eventually decided to stop pursuing his doctorate. He said that the closer he got to getting his doctorate, the less appealing it became to him.

    1. BTW, I don't recommend anyone respond to him without viewing the entire video. He's a really nice guy, but honest enough to call someone on their BSing (like he has done to me on multiple occasions). If anyone does respond, I'll call his attention to any responses.