Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Into the dream

A standard knock against mature creation is that it implicates God in web of deception. It represents a potpourri of illusion and reality.

I've discussed this objection many times. I'd like to take another whack at it.

i) Unless we're careful, the objection to mature creation can easily become an objection to miracles in general. There are atheists who think miracles are cheating. Christians don't play by the rules. We have this ace up our sleeves. Some atheists think miracles are unethical. If nature isn't lawlike, if there are exceptions, then God can't be trusted. I think that's childish, but I'm just pointing out that the objection to mature creation is similar.

ii) Let's illustrate the objection. Take a supernova. Given their distance in lightyears, some supernova generate a paradox: if young-earth creationism is true, then the supernova is older than the universe that contains it. The supernova must predate the universe. But that's incoherent. 

A way around that is to say God created starlight in transit. And up to a point, that's a consistent explanation, but it only works for prehistoric supernovae. Supernovae that were created with the universe.

But in the case of historic supernova, which appear after the universe was made, I don't think that explanation will work. If stargazers record the appearance of a supernova, which wasn't visible in that part of the sky prior to their time, then you can't trace it back to the moment of creation. Compare it to stars that humans always saw. 

This raises the theoretical possibility of an empirical test. If you could take a spaceship to the site of transmission, would you find a supernova there, or just a play of light? 

According to mature creation, although the light source may be localizable, that's not the point of origin. Rather, a supernova is the effect of God's direct fiat. If you follow the stream of light to the source, you will find a luminous image or afterglow with no underlying physical cause. Just a shiny surface, like a hologram. Or will you? 

Some people think that's deceptive. For my part, I think it would be very interesting to live in a universe like that. 

iii) Is there anything analogous to mature creation in human experience? Consider dreams. We dream about two kinds of things: real people and places, as well as imaginary people and places.

On the one hand we dream about familiar people and places. People we know. Friends. Dead or living relatives. Places where we live. Places from our past.

On the other hand, we dream about strangers. We dream about strange places. We dream about places we've never been in real life. We see people in dreams we never saw in real life. We encounter people in dreams we never met before, whom we will never meet again.

You have to wonder where all this is coming from. Sure, you can say it's our subconscious. But how can our subconscious instantly produce this detailed alternate reality?  

Another striking thing about this experience is that within the dream, real people and places are indistinguishable from imaginary people and places. Within the dream, imaginary characters look real and act real. We have conversations with the imaginary characters in our dreams–just like we have conversations with friends and relatives in our dreams. Within the dream, you can't tell the difference. It all seems equally real. It's a bit unnerving, if you think about it. 

Although there's a sense in which dreams are unreal, there's another sense in which dreams are real. Dreams are mental states. Mental states are real. In that respect, dreams are just as real as our waking states. 

There is, of course, a critical difference. When you're awake, you're aware of a world that's objective to yourself. You're interacting with a world that's independent of you. In a dream, by contrast, the dream is the product of your awareness. 

Yet when we dream about remembered people and remembered places, reality is breaking into the dream, like a shaft of light in the darkness. In that respect, the dream is a composite of reality and illusion.

Mature creation may seem ad hoc if we think of "apparent age" as little bits of illusion intruding into reality. But when we dream about remembered people and places, it's little bits of reality intruding into the illusion. So it depends on your frame of reference.

iv) In addition, it's striking how mature creation anticipates virtual reality. Take scifi fare like Harsh Real, The Matrix, and Tron: Legacy. Scifi buffs find those scenarios very appealing. They wish they could do that sort of thing in real life. 

Moreover, it's not just science fiction. As we continue to make strides in VR technology, we are making a mature creation parallel, where real people interact with a simulation. Where do you draw the line? 


  1. Am I to take it from this steve that your position is that the earth was instantiated 6-10,000 years ago with the characteristics of old age created at the same time?

    Is this the same as the picture in the magicians nephew of the creation that we see there whereby aslan creates everything in a kind of speeded up way? i.e 'the aged look' if you will that the universe has today is because of that initial creating period which prematurely matured the universe giving it the appearance of having an age is does not have sort of like the universe is suffering from progeria.

    1. My position is that mature creation is philosophically defensible.

  2. Steve Hays what are your thoughts about Genesis 1 being just a polemic and not actual history?

    1. Up to a point, Gen 1 could be both polemical and historical. It can't be historical if it's an expurgated pagan myth, but it can be historical while shadowboxing with some pagan comments.

      Gen 1 is not a freestanding set piece, but the opening scene in a continuous narrative. One can't say it's pious fiction without saying the ongoing narrative that builds on Gen 1 is pious fiction.

    2. Speaking of which:

  3. This seems like a play on the cartesian demon.

    1. Well, if the Cartesian demon is running the show, then we better stay on his good side!

  4. I think the main problem is that the Young Earth/Universe position then becomes like Ptolemy's epicycles. Just too many things to explain that creates a clunky system, mainly to prop up an interpretation of Genesis 1 that may or may not be the best.

    1. One explanation (appearance of age) explains all the phenomena. That doesn't seem analogous to Ptolemy's epicycles at all where they had to add epicycles that were different than the prior epicycle etc.?

    2. There's a difference between an appearance of age and light from supernovae that didn't really happen when it would appear they happened. So then you get light in transit or some other views about time speeding up, etc. At that point, that's where you get a clumsy system that goes beyond Adam being created mature.