Friday, June 08, 2018

Apparent to whom?

1. Traditionally, young-earth creationists espouse apparent age, although nowadays I think "mature creation" is the preferred appellation, and Jonathan Sarfati, for one, repudiates the concept of apparent age. 

2. By definition, "apparent" is relative. Apparent to whom? Is there an appearance that's uniform to everyone? Consider some candidates:

i) God

ii) Angels

iii) Prescientific observers

iv) Scientific observers

From God's viewpoint, does the world appear to be older than it really is? Is that question even meaningful in relation to God? 

How old did the Grand Canyon appear to pre-Columbian Indians in the region? How does that appearance compare to a conventional geologist? 

3. Apropos (2), when we affirm or deny apparent age, who's the normative observer? Whose viewpoint sets the standard? 

If you think apparent age is true, in relation to whom is it true? If you think apparent age is false, in relation to whom is it false? Is it true or false depending on how it appears to a scientific observer? A prescientific observer? To the Creator? To the Archangel Michael?

4. The dispute over apparent age is not about present-day appearances but what lies behind appearances–the process that caused the present-day appearance. Not about what you see, not about the present, but about an inferred past. 

5. To a great extent, the appearance of nature is cyclical. That caught the attention of Ecclesiastes, three thousand years ago. 

But what's the apparent age of a cyclical process? There's a sense in which a circle is timeless, because periodicity is indefinitely repeatable. You walk into a room and glance at the second hand of the clock. It moves around the dial in a clockwise direction. If you went into the room a day before, a week before, a day later, a week later, you'd see the second hand doing the same thing. So when it did start moving? From the present, you can't reconstruct when the second hand began moving. It has no implied chronology. Maybe the clock began ticking yesterday, or last year, or ten years ago. Someone wound it up, but when? There's no clue.

That may be why there were medieval and ancient debates over the eternity of the world. Circular action is timeless in a way that linear action is not. Sheer repetition. 

6. Finally, it's striking how the extremes of naturalistic evolution and young-earth creationism can meet. Both sides draw a contrast between appearance and reality: 

Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. 

Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p1. 

[Mature creation] a theory that God created many things in a mature form (fulfilling function at the moment of creation), thus appearing as if they had developed when they had not. 

Kurt Wise, Faith, Form and Time, p282.

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