Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'

JIM S I think it is still enormously problematic to suggest that God created Adam and Eve with a false appearance of Age.
This can be illustrated by asking whether Adam's and Eve's cells and organs had physical indicators that they had been alive for twenty (or so) years. For example, according to this scenario God presumably created Adam and Eve with adult-sized hearts. But it doesn't follow from this that these hearts bore the wear and tear of having been beating for twenty years -- he created them brand new, not with a false appearance of age. Let me reiterate that: they would have appeared adult-sized AND brand new. The claim that being created as adults means being created with an appearance of age presupposes that size and age are essentially the same thing. This is obviously false. 
Rob Bowman Another problem is that while God might make things "mature" (and therefore looking "older" than they really are), it doesn't seem likely that he would make them appear *aged* beyond their actual years. For example, God might make Adam and Eve as young adults, but he would not make them with 18 years of tooth decay or with hard callouses on their hands and feet. 

i) What does it mean to say something has the appearance of age, much less a false appearance of age? For instance, if you never saw a child before, would you infer from its appearance that the child was an immature human? Conversely, if you never saw an adult before, would you infer from its appearance that the adult was a mature human? Fact is, humans don't appear to be any particular age to an inexperienced observer.

ii) Both critics treat the body like a machine, which begins to wear out as soon as it comes into use. In a sense, car is already old if it has 100,000 miles on it, even if the car is just a year old. But is the heart of a 16-year-old like a car with 20,000 miles on the odometer? Still in great shape, but no longer as good as when it was brand-new? 

At what point does a human body begin to undergo irreversible deterioration? Is the heart of a 16-year-old like a mechanical pump that already has some wear and tear? Or does it only begin to wear out when senescence kicks in? If you could keep the teenager at 16 for 90 years, would his heart eventually wear out? Or would it keep on ticking indefinitely, so long as he stays in his youthful prime? 

Does the heart suffer from planned obsolescence? Does it have a preset number of beats? Do athletes die younger because they increase their heart rate (more beats per minute), thereby exhausting their allotment quicker? Do you die sooner if you make your heart run faster, because you used up your quota early on? 

This isn't just an academic question. If body parts and organs inevitably wear out, then a resurrection cannot confer immortality. God must repeatedly rejuvenate the saints. 

Likewise, even if God might make the light from a star reach us much earlier than its actual distance, I don't think he would make it appear that the light has been diffusing through interstellar dust for millions of years if that hadn't actually happened.

Is the speed of light designed to indicate the passage of time? Or do we simply find it convenient to treat some natural processes as if they were chronometers? 

In the end I am suspicious of all ad hoc arguments that claim that things aren't what they appear. The geocentrists in Galileo's day argued that it only appeared that moons were orbiting Jupiter. Dawkins admits that life looks designed but insists it isn't really. The YEC that the universe only looks billions of years old is the same kind of argument.

But that cuts both ways. Aren't geocentrists appealing to apparent motion? Couldn't they say heliocentricism is deceptive? 

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.
The analogy with Christ turning water into wine doesn't work. Christ turned the water into wine instantly, and once it was wine it functioned just like regular wine. Christ did not put the wine in bottles and label them with varying vintage dates to make it appear that some of the wine was much older than other bottles of wine.

But it's not the vintner who put a time stamp on the bottle. Rather, scientists draw inferences about the passage of time from natural processes–whose function is not to indicate the passage of time. 

The question is whether we have a justifiable expectation that these processes are reliable time-markers. Take Orson Welles reading War of the Worlds on the radio. That caused some listeners to panic. They thought it was a real news broadcast. But it's not as if Welles intended to deceive them. And who's to blame if they were spooked? Is it his fault that some listeners were gullible? Don't confuse fiction with deception. 

If all we had was the starlight problem, one of these ad hoc explanations might seem at least plausible, given one's belief that the Bible must teach an age of the universe of only some thousands of years. But the Bible doesn't teach an age of the universe or of the earth, and there are lots of other scientific evidences, independent of the starlight velocity evidence, that the world is more than several thousand years old. The YEC position must then come up with additional ad hoc explanations for all of those lines of evidence...

But if mature creation is true, then those are not in fact independent variables. 


  1. I think you bring out a very important point with bringing up geocentrists and others with appearance arguments. This kind of "deception" argumentation is without merit for a very simple reason: You can apply it to anything. Essentially the argument goes:

    A lot of us believe x.
    X is clearly a justified belief.
    Therefore, if x isn't true, then God is deceptive.

    That argument could prove anything. The only limit to the argument is its power to persuade in the cases of minority beliefs.

  2. While God cannot lie, God may and does sometimes deceive (2 Thess. 2:11; 1 Kings 22:19ff). God is sovereign over deception and ignorance and not just creatures' acquisition of knowledge (Job 12:16).

    Assuming YEC for the sake of argument, God could have created the world with the appearance of age for multiple purposes. There may be no other way to display the vastness of the universe than to create light in transit from distant stars. BUT WHY CREATE SUCH A VAST UNIVERSE?

    1. to make the world look less artificial. Imagine if the universe was as small as what we could explore (say only the size of earth). Or if Adam found himself in a universe only as large as a warehouse. We in the former and Adam in the latter would find our environment so extremely artificial and limited that we wouldn't find the designer all that wise or ingenious. We would infer the designer or designers were finite like us and so not worthy of praise. Think of how disappointed Jim Carey's character was in the movie The Truman Show. He reached the end of the universe for all he knew when his boat hit the wall with a painted false background. Or think of how nihilistically suicidal the characters were in the movie The Thirteenth Floor when they reached the end of their universe(s). That's why it makes a lot of sense for Scripture to teach that "the heavens [in its vastness, beauty and intricacy] declare the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1). And as science progresses we learn more and more of that vastness, beauty and intricacy (that's true even if scientific realism is false).

    2. The "deceptive" character of appearances are not always in the appearances themselves but in our false inferences (as Steve has shown in multiple blogs). It's not like the stars spell out the propositional statement that they are billions of years old. People merely infer that from NON-propositional general revelation. And so, what God uses to elicit awe in the elect, God may also simultaneously be using to deceive the non-elect into thinking that universe is self-contained and self-explanatory on a cosmic evolutionary scale (setting aside issues regarding evidence for fine-tuning, and attempts by secular scientists to explain it via theories of a multiverse).

    Design, wisdom, power & glory along with beauty is interpreted by the heart of the beholder (whether regenerate or unregenerate). Like the children in Matt. 11:16-19 the unregenerate can never be satisfied. If the universe was apparently self-contained and self-explanatory they would (and DO) say that God is unnessary and a superfluous & extraneous hypothesis. Yet on the other hand, if the universe was evidentally unstable and mysteriously maintained, they would argue that the designer, if it exists is not very ingenious or worthy of praise for creating a faulty imperfect universe. [More contradictory objections to theism HERE]

    And so.....

    Continue in Next Post

    1. And so what Pascal wrote (of which I'm sure people are tired of me quoting) makes a lot of sense. Apply also to general revelation what he says about special revelation.

      Willing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from him with all their heart, God so regulates the knowledge of himself that he has given indications [or "signs"] of himself which are visible to those who seek him and not to those who do not seek him. There is enough light for those to see who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.

      Who are those who seek God with all their hearts? Calvinists like myself would say they are the elect whom God sovereignly regenerates out of total depravity.

      While not a Calvinist, but a Catholic with a high view of providence (and possibly of predestination), Pascal elsewhere wrote in his Pensées:

      The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary; so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it, and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince; so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it.

      More relevant quotes from the Pensées:

      577 There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them, and make them inexcusable.—Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Sébond.

      574 All things work together for good to the elect, even the obscurities of Scripture; for they honour them because of what is divinely clear. And all things work together for evil to the rest of the world, even what is clear; for they revile such, because of the obscurities which they do not understand.

      562 It will be one of the confusions of the damned to see that they are condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn the Christian religion.

      576 God has made the blindness of this people subservient to the good of the elect.

    2. A universe sufficiently small and simple would tend to lead embodied conscious agents to infer that they were in a lab experiment than that they were the creation of the greatest possible and greatest conceivable Being (i.e. God).