Saturday, July 04, 2020

"Apparent" theistic evolution

I'm not a young earth creationist (YEC). That said:

Some people criticize YEC on the grounds that it makes God a deceiver if not a liar. He created the world in something like 10,000 years, but he created it with the appearance of age, empirically speaking. Critics say that's deceptive. Some critics even say it makes God a liar.

Some theistic evolutionists may face a similar problem. They say God guided evolution, but they also say we can't detect evidence of design. Such as in entities like DNA, cells, flagella, eyes. Apparently God guided evolution in such a way that his guidance is empirically undetectable. (Otherwise, if design is detectable, why not embrace design like Behe does?) Apparently theistic evolution is empirically indistinguishable from naturalistic evolution. So does this mean theistic evolutionists are making God out to be a deceiver if not a liar?

If theistic evolutionists respond there's nothing necessarily unethical about God's deception, then why couldn't YECs say the same about YEC?


  1. It's interesting to me, but for millenia practically the whole of God's people took His own self-testimony of His creation fiat as described in Genesis a literal 24-hour per day, 6 day event as revealed truth. Until some didn't. Maybe good Bishop Ussher was off with regard to his venerable timeline due to skipped geneologoies as some have argued, but not by millions (or billions) of years.

    I've often wondered, in the other end of His book in Revelation when God describes "mak[ing] all things new" at the end of the age in what is essentially a re-creation event, are people consistent in their exegesis (or eisegesis as the case may be)? Do people assume a fiat re-creation that will occur at once, or do they assume God will take millions, or billions of years to "make all things new"?

    1. Speaking for myself, I'm not a YEC, but I can see a reasonable case for mature creation. I say I'm not a YEC because I think YEC as a movement (e.g. Answers in Genesis) includes more than a case for mature creation.

    2. That said, I do have a lot of respect for some YECs like Todd Wood and Jonathan Sarfati.

    3. I haven't had time to read many of the comments, but now that I do have a bit of time, I'll just add one comment here.

      Coram Deo said: "It's interesting to me, but for millenia practically the whole of God's people took His own self-testimony of His creation fiat as described in Genesis a literal 24-hour per day, 6 day event as revealed truth." Except the sun didn't exist until day 4, so whatever the "day" was it couldn't be considered typical. Thus, there's also no reason to assume a 24-hour day.

      For the record, I'm not a YEC for one Biblical reason and two non-Biblical reasons. The Biblical reason is that Genesis 1 is written in a different manner than Genesis 2. Genesis 1 is far more poetic and structured in a thematic way, whereas Genesis 2 reads more like the historical narratives found in the rest of the Old Testament. Likewise, Genesis 2 has apparent contradictions with Genesis 1 if you take both to be literal, but has no problem if one views Genesis 1 more figuratively. (I don't strictly view it identically to the framework hypothesis, but that's another way in which the apparent contradiction can be resolved).

      For the non-Biblical reasons: 1) Time isn't objective and requires a subject to perceive it before it even "exists"; and 2) If anything, my view more closely aligns to that of instantaneous creation than anything else. But again, this is sort of linked to point 1.

      If God created the Earth and had it circle the Sun, but the only observers of this are beings who exist OUTSIDE the universe (i.e., God Himself and any angelic beings, whether fallen or not), then what is the passing of time for such entities? Do you count the revolutions of the Earth around the Sun? Why would you? That's internal to the created universe. If I wrote a computer program that simulated a planet revolving around a star, are you going to set your clock based on my computer simulation or based on the time in which YOU experience it? Time only matters at the level at which it is perceived. Spiritual beings don't require either space or time, and the first genuinely conscious creatures would have been animals on the 6th day and, I would argue, you'd actually still need to wait for humans before you had a created being actually capable of experiencing time.

    4. I believe Gen. 1 is literal historical narrative for Biblical reasons.

      i.) The Hebrew word for "day" used is the normal every day word for a regular 24-hour "day".

      ii.) There's very careful attention given to describe a sequence of consecutive daily events.

      iii.) God created time and knows everything and the Hebrew language had words and concepts of epochs and long periods of time that God could have inspired Moses to use if He'd taken longer periods of time to do this or that. Being outside time doesn't mean God isn't aware of time, He's the definer of time, even though He's not subject to time as its Creator.

      iv.) Jesus and Paul treated Genesis 1 as literal history, and Paul hangs his theology of salvation in Christ on the literal historicity of Genesis in Rom. 5:12-21.

      v.) Even granting, arguendo, that Gen. 1 is poetic instead of narrative historical prose, the Hebrew language frequently deploys poetry as hymnic chants for aiding the memory, sort of like mnemonic devices for oral teaching/catechizing purposes and not for wistful, fanciful, storytelling purposes.

      vi.) Any apparent contradictions between any books, passages, or verses in the Bible are only problems with our harmonization/understanding, we should assume the error is in our understanding of God's Word, and not a problem with God's Word.

    5. I'm going to add to Coram Deo's reasons.

      vii.) The difference in style of Genesis 1 to the remainder of Genesis doesn't *necessarily* demand a different interpretation. It could be factual information organized somewhat poetically for a reason. (Speculation on this below.)

      viii.) While inspired by God, he used Moses to write to the Hebrews at the time. We shouldn't understand it differently than they would. Moses appears to assume a solar week in Exodus 20 indicating how the Hebrews would have understood it.

      ix.) Revelation 20 assumes a Jewish eschatology, which is based on a young creation. Even if you read the millennium as figurative, the referent that would have been known to John's immediate audience is an eschatology based on a handful of millennia. For a long time the Jews had been looking for the Messianic millennium promised in Genesis 1. Now presenting Revelation 20. (This is also why I'm historic premil rather than amil. I'm only a thousand years from being amil.)

      Now for a speculation based on Vii. above: If you assume the lengthened antediluvian lifespans, there are several generations alive at once. It seems there wasn't writing until after the flood, but there was at least some oral history. Genesis 1 seems to be set up to be the oral creation history that was passed from Adam through to Noah - something to be recited from memory and eventually written down. This would have been passed into Egypt's libraries by Joseph and available to Moses. Any errors in it would have been open to scrutiny by God who spoke with Moses directly. The creation details that followed would have been passed along concurrently. Genesis 1: Here's the creation account. Genesis 2 and following: This is the explanation as to what happened to it. Like I say, this is completely speculative, but it seems to be the best explanation as to why Genesis 1 is different.

  2. As an OEC, I say the critique works well against both groups.

  3. YEC-er here weighing in. Thoughtful YEC-ers don't say that God deceived anyone because he told us in Scripture how long it took him. The notion of deception is over evidential appearances and completely ignores the revelation of Scripture. Of course, the hermeneutics can be debated, but if you assume the YEC hermeneutic, then it's clear that God isn't deceptive. It's precisely the revelation of Scripture that anyone believes a young earth anyway. It's not that the evidence doesn't lend itself in some ways to a young earth, but scientific discovery has epistemological limitations.

    1. The argument is about the information that is left in nature itself. Like supernova for light in transit, things like that.

    2. Which is only a problem if one grants uniformitarian presuppositions at the outset. But why commit such an obvious blunder?

    3. Geoff, I understand that that's the argument, but it presumes that the only information God gives is natural. God may have created that way, but he explained what he actually did in words that we can understand. It's like a magician who explains his trick to the audience and the audience ignores his explanation and tries to figure out what really happened by speculating on the illusion as though it really happened the way it appeared to happen.

      Magician saws woman in half and puts her back together. Audience is amazed.

      Magician: "You see, there are actually two women. One is scrunched up here in this half of the table and the other is scrunched up here in the other half..."

      Audience member 1: "Let's see, the woman was sawed in half. Then she was put back together. I theorize that there is some kind of biological glue that allowed her to be put back together."

      Audience member 2: "No, no. That kind of glue is impossible. I theorize that the magician is very fast at suturing."

      Audience member 3: "You idiots, it couldn't have happened that way. She had to have healed. If it really happened that way, then the magician was trying to fool us. It had to take a long time for her to recover."

      You can't determine how a miracle happened if you treat it as though it isn't a miracle.

    4. Jim, you're assuming your Young Earth interpretation is so solid that it trumps any outside information that may challenge it. I don't grant that assumption.

      But to the topic at hand and Coram Deo's comment, one doesn't have to think everything is completely uniform to see that there's an issue here.

    5. Good points. Plus if we assume God's original creation fiat is problematic due to the appearance of problems with standard naturalistic models of physics, cosmology, etc. what does one do with Christ's creative miracles such as turning water into wine (no grapes were grown, harvested juiced, fermented) and His feeding of the multitudes with fish that were never spawned, swam, or caught and bread for which wheat was never germinated, grown, harvested, crushed into flour, mixed nor baked?

      Were these parlor tricks, or explainable by standard scientific models?

    6. Geoff,
      I'm not assuming that it's "so solid that..." I'm just assuming it. This is the epistemology of the Young Earth position.

    7. Coram Deo,
      I don't think they were parlor tricks or explainable by standard scientific models.

    8. I wasn't suggesting you did, I was riffing off your "miracles" language because the Genesis creation fiat and Christ's creative miracles as Yahweh incarnate have symmetry.

      No one who scientifically examined the created wine or created/multiplied fish and loaves could have concluded they were miraculously and spontaneously created fully formed. Just like Adam and Eve, and by extension just like the earth, moon, and stars.