Thursday, September 26, 2013

Animal mortality

I'm responding to Facebook commenters on my recent animal mortality post:

If the image of God's ultimate cosmic peace (among other things) is that the lion lies down with the lamb, did the lion lie down with the lamb before the fall?

He needs to demonstrate why the Isaian imagery is literal rather than poetic. Does he take the same approach to other Isaian passages, viz.,

Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it;    shout, O depths of the earth;break forth into singing, O mountains,    O forest, and every tree in it! (44:23).
“For you shall go out in joy    and be led forth in peace;the mountains and the hills before you    shall break forth into singing,    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;and it shall make a name for the Lord,    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off (55:12-13).

And even if we take it literally, why assume the final state is just a throwback to the primeval state? 

Dion Astwood

I think the issue needs answering, but I don't find the criticisms in the article that compelling. Jesus made wine from water, that is a creative event.
Which weakens the YEC appeal to the 7th day as the terminus of divine creativity.
It is not that God could not create new kinds of creatures after the 6 days, it is that it does not appear that he did.
YECs usually take a stronger line on the implications of the 7th day to rule out macroevolution. To the extent that Dion relativizes its force, that opens the door to progressive creationism and theistic evolution. So he's defending YEC by arguments which undercut YEC.
Modifying creatures post fall, even genetically, fits with YEC. 
Not if the "modifications" fit the standard definition of macroevolution (i.e. novel body parts and body plans due to new genetic information).
The world was cursed and that means changes. Thorns (I believe) are mutated leaves, but that God directed that on a global scale fits in a with a curse.
He's assuming what he needs to prove. Gen 3 doesn't say the "world" was cursed. Gen 3 doesn't say thorns are mutated leaves.
Further, it is not that human death is assumed to apply to animal death thus animals were not carnivorous, it is that the animals were vegetarian as they are described. The author is incorrect about many carnivores, they can live even now on a vegetarian diet including felines, canines.
I specifically made allowance for exceptions. He needs to pay attention to what people actually say, rather than respond with prepared answers that don't address the specifics of the argument.
He is also probably incorrect about the vampire bat.
Does he know that or not? Why the weasel words ("probably incorrect").

It is also not ad hoc. Plants died. Why does Steve think that ants need to be classified with dogs and not plants, or fungi, or sponges, or bacteria. 
Because ants are obviously more dog-like than sponge-like. Do the comparative anatomy. Is the body plan of an ant more like a dog or a sponge, fungus, daffodil?
Prelapsarian bacteria certainly died.
Irrelevant. I didn't discuss bacteria in the context of mortality, but good and evil.
Sponges are classified in animalia though we would not consider them dying prior to the Fall, nor even now. Scripture suggests that death relates to the soul and breath
"Soul" is misleading. That has traditional connotations of an immortal, immaterial seat of personality. Genesis doesn't use "soul" in that sense. He's bouncing off the rendering of the King James Bible.
thus breathing is a quality of an animal who can die, not Steve's presumption of how he thinks they must be classified.
To my knowledge, most organisms on earth require oxygen to survive. So doesn't his criterion backfire?

Or is he talking about a particular mechanism (e.g. lungs) to process oxygen? If so, that's ad hoc. 

His critique would be better if he were more well read 
I cited Sarfati and Snelling. And in my recent Genesis series I also cited Wise. Those are three of the best representatives of contemporary YEC.  

and interacted on a deeper level.

Ironic considering the superficiality of his own comments.

"So there is some level of death (or predation and Steve's feelings about anteaters and ants doesn't really cut it."

His bluster aside, once he starts carving out exceptions to his principle, he no longer has a principle. He can no longer object to antelapsarian death and predation as a matter of principle. At best, he can only try to drawn the line with certain types of prelapsarian death and predation, on a case-by-case basis. The original categorical claim undergoes a series of ad hoc qualifications. 

To say the counterexample of anteaters (which wasn't my only counterexample) "doesn't really cut it" is bluster rather than argument. 

"In terms of subsequent creation, I don't see it as a necessary problem."

It's a problem if you oppose six-day fiat creation to progressive creation or theistic evolution. 

 "Thorns are new…"

He's assuming the distinction is temporal rather than spatial. Why do thorns have to be new? They could preexist outside the garden. They are new to Adam and Eve. After Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden, they encounter thorns thistles for the first time. 

Dion filters the text through YEC exegesis. He doesn't even seem to be conscious of alternative interpretations at this juncture. 

 "and this can either be targeted genetic change by God in a pre-existent kind, permitted genetic change (which continually happens with new disease) or creating a new kind."

Creation of "new kinds" subsequent to the cessation of God's creative work on day 7 is progressive creationism or theistic evolution rather than young-earth creationism. He's oblivious to tensions within his own position. Isn't one of the defining features of YEC that God made all the natural kinds during the six-day creation week? Subsequent developments are supposed to occur *within* the boundaries of a natural kind. 

 If day 7 doesn't mark the cut-off, then what distinguishes young-earth creationism from progressive creationism or theistic evolution? And, at the risk of repeating myself, if the infusion of new genetic information results in new body parts or body plans, isn't that the definition of macroevolution? To say that's divinely targeted is synonymous with theistic evolution. 

1 comment:

  1. You're critique is spot on. Too often genre is ignored in Biblical studies. Recognizing genre and following its rule is not liberalism, it's faithful readership.

    John Walker