Sunday, July 07, 2013

Dodge City

For many critics, including atheists and professing Christians alike, the theory of Philip Henry Gosse represents the reductio ad absurdum of creationism. But let's consider an illustration. Suppose a director makes a Western in 2013. The Western is ostensibly set in Dodge City, c. 1883. The director has a stage set that meticulously reconstructs old Dodge City. He hires expert consultants to ensure the historical accuracy of the costumes, buildings, and technology. He has facsimile copies of newspapers lying around. There's a mock graveyard. 

The cast and crew have their kids mulling around the set while they shoot on location. Suppose a plague that targets adults suddenly kills the cast and crew, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. The older kids know that this is just a stage-set. But for the younger kids, this is the only world they remember. When they grow up, they assume that they are living in the 19C. They have proof. Look at the dates on the newspapers. Look at the dates on the grave markers. Nothing is dated later than 1883.  The older kids try to convince the younger kids that this is just a stage-set. That they are really living in the 21C. But the younger kids dismiss that explanation as deceptive and superstitious special pleading. "Who are you going to believe–me or your lying eyes"? 

Whether or not mature creative is plausible depends, in large part, on what God made the world for. In a fallen world, the perennial human foible is to underestimate God. 

Speaking for myself, I don't think God planted fake fossils in the rock strata. For one thing, I don't feel the need to assign all animal mortality to a postlapsarian situation. I don't think that's exegetically sound.

Yet, for all I know, the world might be a cosmic stage-set. I have no antecedent reason to presume that God could not or would not do it that way. I can't rule that out. I can't even assign relative probabilities to that hypothetical. It all depends on God's ulterior purpose for the world. And that's not something I'm privy too. 

In my illustration, the younger kids are judging their surroundings by the evidence they have. The empirical evidence is thoroughly consistent with a 19C date. All the evidence points in the same direction. 

And that's not coincidental. The stage-set is supposed to be consistent with a 19C provenance. It was made that way. But not because it was made in the 19C. 


  1. In previous blogs Steve used this analogy a number of times...

    A man lost in the dark needs a flashlight, map, and compass to find his way out of the woods. Reason is the flashlight. Revelation is the map and compass. Without a map and compass, the flashlight is useless. Everywhere we look we see more trees.

    If the children found a script of the movie along with the set design plans, they would be analogous to the Bible. With the script and plans, they could find their way out of the set and into the modern world (analogous to heaven) where there is no longer limited food and water as on the set with real (but limited) crops and water pump.

    [I note the premise is similar to a Joaquin Phoenix movie (the title of which I won't reveal because I don't want to give out any spoilers).]

  2. Also, non-Christians (esp. atheists) need to consider that if God did create this world with its inter-dependences, environment, casual relations (etc.), then their search for a Grand Unified Theory may not be possible. The theories of scientists may not actually be penetrating to a true understanding of reality. It would be analogous to characters in a video game (e.g. Pac Man, or Mortal Kombat, the Sims etc.) scientifically studying the world in which they live and find themselves in and thinking they understand how "reality" actually works and functions. When in fact, no matter how long they do their experiments they would never be able to discover or prove (though possibly speculate) that their existence and "reality" is dependent and based on computer codes like ASCII. In other words, scientific realism might be false. The scientific anti-realism of Gordon Clark's Occasionalism might be a more accurate description of what science is and does.

    Theories and hypotheses like philosopher Nick Bostrom's Simulation Argument cannot enable scientists to penetrate reality. It would take revelation from above to explain and properly interpret reality. In which case, scientific realism might be the ultimate "fool's errand." In Christianity, General Revelation was never intended to be interpreted apart from Special Revelation. While general revelation is sufficiently clear and robust to render all humans without excuse before God as their Judge, only special revelation can provide ultimate answers about metaphysics, ontology and salvation.

    1. casual relations = causal relations

    2. "Theories and hypotheses like ["SIMILAR TO" not "like"] philosopher Nick Bostrom's Simulation Argument"

      Bostrom distinguishes his "Simulation Argument" from a simulation hypothesis.