RSS

Science Odds & Ends 6

20 Jun

#6. Where were you?  by James Wanliss

Where were you?

Our age is one of great doubt. Things that before were considered fact are now relegated to the quaint (or otherwise) junk pile of myth and fantasy. The churches of the humanists, namely the public schools, preach a gospel of naturalism as the only sure guide to truth and knowing (gnosis). This naturalism is baptised, sanctified, and sold as science, falsely so called (1). Of course, the scientific method is in no way synonymous with naturalism – an anti-Christian philosophy which denies the existence of the supernatural and which acknowledges only natural elements and material existence. The enormous attainments of the scientific method are claimed as victories for the humanist philosophy, and propagated as such through the secular media and places of learning. The irony is monumental: God creates man and provides the tools and blessings requisite for dominion; man exercises these tools and upon experiencing success declares that this proves the Bible is wrong and God does not exist. It is a great injustice that the potency of the scientific method is used by anti-Christian philosophers to shake the fist at God.

When the apparent social and cultural impotence and irrelevance of the Christian Church is observed it serves only to confirm in the mind of the unbeliever that the Bible is not all that it claims to be. It is certainly not, in their mind, the inspired Word of God, and is most certainly a fallible document. Science, however, is a surer guide to truth. When there are places where the Bible and modern science collide, the veracity of the Scriptures is usually perceived to be the sore loser. We are currently required to admit that God did not create the world in six days, but rather six long periods of time. That man has existed on earth for more than one million years, rather than a few thousand years. That the flood of Noah was not global but only a local inundation caused by the breach of a dam in Asia. That God did not create a complete and “good” cosmos, but that the cosmos has gone through cycles of creation and annihilation; the latest creation being more than fifteen billion years ago. We are also required to admit that man is the descendant of whales, pond scum, and an assortment of other interesting beasts. Never mind the unbeliever, this is enough to cause the Christian believer to entertain serious doubts in the veracity of the Bible. Is it really the Good Book, the very Word of God; or is it merely a collection of myth and idle fancy interspersed with some generally accepted truths?

The fawning reverence and homage many theologians pay to certain dogmas of modern science still further confirm that this book is just so much silly putty to be moulded. As just one example from an innumerable multitude witness Donald MacLeod, Principal of the Free Church of Scotland Theological College, an extremely capable, well-read, and esteemed theologian:  “But I know enough to be satisfied that the idea that the universe is 15 billion years old is as well established as Newton’s Law of Gravity, Einstein’s Theories of Relativity and Heysenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.”(2) Professor MacLeod is apparently an easy man to satisfy, because none of what he has stated is particularly compelling. That the universe is 15 billion years old is beyond the ken of hard science, and requires extrapolations of a type far beyond what scientific faith can ever demand or require. Untestable speculations, while interesting, are not in the realm of hard science, nor are extrapolation far beyond the range of actual experiment. Notwithstanding all the religious fanaticism, that the cosmos is 15 billion years old is simply a guess, and not something that any scientist has ever measured or indeed can measure. The facts have been measured; the interpretation of those facts is most certainly not unique, and do not require eons upon eons. And in the absence of a present ability to perform an experiment to evolve the world along the hypothetical lines, or to time-travel to the moment of creation, the Biblical chronology ought to be preferred. Although imagination is important, in science it is always dangerous to substitute imagination for experience, because anything imaginable might be true. The universe might have been created five minutes ago, or it might not have been created at all – it might be a bad dream descended from a piece of undigested blue cheese. Speculation in accord with known data is a valid part of science, but particularly when these speculations cannot be proven, one ought to be careful to reserve judgment, especially if a more perfect source of fact, such as the Bible, is available to dispel the fogs of uncertainty.

Nevertheless our fashionable teacher of Bible teachers is satisfied that “the idea that the universe is 15 billion years old is as well established as Newton’s Law of Gravity.” But Newton’s law of gravity is demonstrably false, and has long been superseded by Einstein’s general theory. “Whenever the predictions of Einstein have been found to differ from the ideas of Newtonian mechanics, Nature has chosen Einstein.”(3) Even Einstein’s theories are not so sacrosanct as the professor supposes. Einstein’s theories of relativity are twofold – the Special theory, and the more elegant General theory. In order to “understand” the special theory one must abandon physical reasoning in favour of mathematical formalism. There are compelling logical reasons to cause one to suspect that the theories are built on sand (4). Furthermore, at least one of its basic assumptions is apparently wrong. It is interesting to see the scientific currents threatening the dogma of the constancy of the speed of light (5,6,7,8). The general relativity with its twisted and warped geometries is impossible to imagine, though the mathematics is very challenging, elegant and lovely; it rests on the same sands, and may require massive revision. And Heisenberg is not spelt with a ‘y’. The Germans would be furious! I would be remiss to fail to mention that while having faith, Heisenberg never came to make sense of Einstein’s theories (9). And Einstein in turn rejected the possibility that Heisenberg’s quantum mechanics described reality. In commenting on the theory, he wrote, “…that [God] would choose to play dice with the world…is something I cannot believe for a single moment.”(10) That our theology professors are so willing to have faith in such enchanting science is scary. One can only hope that they approach the study of the Bible with a more critical mindset.

The Christian Church is not taken seriously by the world because it does not take it’s own standards seriously. The sheep are left perplexed as the shepherds behave like clowns animated by the scientific winds of change. The irony of it all is that our professional theologians don’t receive tenure from the world. Perhaps they are trying to demonstrate to the sheep their dexterous manipulations of the Word of God; the only ones that might be impressed are some of the sheep. The world is certainly not impressed as the church leaders nimbly manufacture the illusion of a poodle from a balloon and so much hot air. But the Word of God does not have the same elastic properties; it makes foolish the worldly wisdom. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). It is professors in theological colleges and the ministers they train who tend to lead the disillusioned and cowed sheep to the shrines of scientism. May it not be so!

The idea that the cosmos is ancient is not new – Aristotle asserted the eternity of the world, of whom Calvin wrote, “…a man of genius and learning…employed his naturally acute powers of mind to extinguish all light.”(11) Some modern hypotheses return to this idea, but with the twist that the cosmos goes through cycles of existence and annihilation. The Scriptural account certainly does not require or account for such vast tracts of time, or any cosmic bounce hypothesis with successive recreations. The scientific method is limited and fallible. Nevertheless, when applied within its proper realm it has been demonstrated to be a great and valuable tool of dominion. It is doubtless useless to profess to know what one does not know, but this is precisely what many scientists are doing in proclaiming a cosmos that is 15 billion years into its latest reincarnation. Whereas the scientific method is fallible, but useful, the Word of God is infallible, and it is a standard for which we ought to be grateful, realising that it can never be subservient to mere creations of men. Thankfully the scientific method is easy to comprehend – one does not need the Ph.D to understand the technique, even if the mathematics and reasoning do sometimes require the Ph.D. If it is not observable, repeatable, measurable, capable of being falsified, then a hypothesis is not strictly scientific. It has marched from the realm of objective measurement to the land of philosophy, which is sometimes stranger than fiction. Why then should we accord it the same, or greater, respect than the Bible? Philosophy and speculation have their place, but let us not seek to reinterpret Scripture because of scientific speculations based on unobservables.

The rub really comes when philosophies are perceived to be in contradiction with the Word of God. In quantum mechanics and relativity we find it acceptable to have faith in contradictory statements (!), but what about this Bible now? Even scientists hold that the Bible and these philosophies, such as the billions of years universe, cannot both be true simultaneously. It is apparently acceptable to believe nonsense in science, but not elsewhere. Rather than becoming fearful that Scripture must needs bow under the accumulated weight of scientific speculation, we would hope that our teachers would uphold the plain and historic teaching of Scripture, and learn to distinguish between genuine observations of reality, and the rolling of the bones, albeit by scientists. God’s Word is so firmly established that not even heaven and earth can move it. Accordingly we ought not to be overly excited at the demands of supposed scientific discoveries, since the same people who formerly advanced them may conceivably overthrow these discoveries the following day. Since the Word of God does not change, the perceived need to find some way to mould the Word to the changing hypothesis is quite wrongheaded. The world already thinks we and our professional teachers are fools; the danger is that we begin to lose faith in our teachers, and in the Book. Dr. Dabney writes about this danger: “And now, the divines tell us, they were mistaken a second time as to what the Bible intended to teach about it; but they are certain they have it right at last. So a third exposition is advanced. It has been this short-sighted folly, more than any real contradiction between the Bible and science, which has caused men to doubt the authority of divine inspiration, and to despise it’s professed expounders.”(12)

All truth springs from God and is internally self-consistent. That is, in any field of knowledge, if one proposition contradicts another, both cannot be true. The Lord Jesus applied a similar reasoning when he was accused of being demon possessed: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house” (Mark 3:23-27). Something cannot be true and false – it is either true or it is false. Satan cannot cast out Satan.

It is dangerous and unnecessary to require that Scripture be sifted through the teeth of supposed scientific ‘facts’. It is dangerous because even if all the scientific theories presently employed were effective handmaids of revelation, ungodly scientists will invent philosophies that attempt to rape and murder the Word of God. “Professing to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image.” Unsaved man is “futile in [his] thoughts” and “suppress[es] the truth” (Romans 1:22,23). It is God who creates man and gives him all the intellectual tools for dominion, including the scientific method. If man properly exercises these tools, then there can be no contradiction with the revelation. We can cheerfully encourage such studies, all the while maintaining that scientific theory and hypothesis do not equal proof. I maintain that one unproven, and unprovable hypothesis is that the cosmos is some 15 billion years old. This dogma – and it is a dogma these days – sets itself in opposition to the plain Word of God. The Scriptures contain plain statements, inferences, deductions and implications that the entire cosmos was created in six literal days some thousands of years ago. “Our philosophy is to receive in simplicity what the Scripture shows us.”(13)

There are many places in Scripture that speak of things in metaphoric terms. Often a language is used which is popular rather than scientifically framed. This does not present a problem because the Scriptures were never intended to be a scientific textbook. Thus when we learn that the earth is round we are not perplexed by Scriptures that speak of the earth having corners. The principles of hermeneutics easily allow that the earth is round. When a proper exegesis of the Scripture has occurred, there must be an agreement with the observed reality, for truth is self-consistent. However there are times when a proper exegesis cannot be reconciled with certain scientific hypotheses. And if the hypotheses is insisted upon then something must yield – either the Scripture or the scientific hypothesis. Unfortunately without exception all public education systems hold that scientific hypotheses are superior to the teachings of Scripture. If Scripture is in one place made to bow to the supposed authority of a scientific hypothesis, than why not elsewhere? If Scripture is wrong in one place, then it is not reasonable to trust its authority in other places. A science that is true will be a handmaid of the Scriptures, not its mistress.

Once again Dr. Dabney writes words of wisdom: “Let us fully concede that the Bible has been often misinterpreted, and that thus its infallibility has been cited to sustain what God never meant it to sustain; that its correct exposition may, especially in certain parts of it, require great patience, caution, and modesty; and that it is wrong to claim its teachings as authoritative on any point, unless we have ascertained the true meaning of the text, beyond a peradventure, by the just application of its own laws of exposition. But still, the Bible must be held to have its own ascertainable and valid laws of exposition; and its teachings, when duly ascertained, must be absolutely authoritative in all their parts, without waiting on or deferring to any conclusion of human science whatsoever; otherwise it is practically no Bible; it is no “rule of the faith” for a human soul.”(14)

Liberal theologians tell us that when Moses seems to say that God created our world out of nothing and organized it, the meaning is that God used a ‘big bang’ to make something out of nothing. That when Moses seems to say the Creation occurred about six thousand years ago, the meaning is that the cosmos long preceded our earth, and that the earth evolved from our sun about 5 billion years ago. That when Moses seems to say God created the contents of the universe after He created the earth, and all in six days, the meaning is that the sun existed prior to the earth and provided the energy that God miraculously use to evolve life from simple forms up to man. If we honestly apply sound principles of hermeneutics we see that Genesis 1 allows no such painful contortions. Nor should we be sloth to defend these doctrines of Creation, for if these are not true then the Bible is built on sand. The statements of Genesis 1 are not introduced for the sake of teaching the physical second causes employed by God, though they touch upon them. In Genesis 1 we have unfolded the foundation of the whole doctrine of man’s relation to his Creator. Our forefathers concluded from a study of the Scriptures that the cosmos was young, no more than a few thousand years old. This flew in the face of the Greek cosmogonies that postulated an ancient or eternally existent Cosmos. The Greek cosmology was long rejected and there was no longer a quarrel. Science and the Bible found relative consistency regarding the age of the earth; then came Hutton and Lyell.

Sir Charles Lyell(15) was the one who used and publicised James Hutton’s ‘principle of uniformitarianism’ (16), which states that “the processes that have shaped the earth through geologic time are the same as those observable today.” Thus by observing the present time scale of processes and using the idea of uniformitarianism, geologists came to recognise that rocks are very old, and the earth is much older. Men of the Church, such as Dr. Chalmers, of the Free Church of Scotland, were quick to jump on the bandwagon, and accepted the professed truth of uniformitarianism, despite having a profound respect and understanding of the scientific method. True scientists, according to Chalmers, “…give you positive opinion only when they have indisputable proof; but when they have no such proof, they have no such opinion. The single principle of their respect to truth, secures their homage for every one position where the evidence of truth is present, and at the same time begets an entire diffidence about every one position from which this evidence is disjoined.”(17) The evidence for Hutton’s uniformitarianism is, to say the least, severely disjoined and disputable, thus disqualifying it from the realm of experimental science, except perhaps in the case of the recent past which has been subject to actual observation. Prior to the publishing of Lyell’s great work, but some time after Hutton’s publication, with which he was familiar, Chalmers proposed the idea that a time gap existed between “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and “Now the earth was formless and void” (Genesis 2:1,2). His reasons for proposing this were not theological, but appear to have been an attempt to accommodate the emerging uniformitarian views of long geologic time. As long a time as anyone could wish for could be inserted between verses 1 and 2, while simultaneously maintaining a literal interpretation of the six days of creation. The problem with this theory is that it is purely theological speculation, brought in purely because of the supposed requirements of science. The absence of any Biblical evidence or allusion to this idea should warn one off idle speculation. Neither was it satisfying to the naturalist, who desired vast tracts of time, but also corpses. Chalmers obliged by speculating that the original earth (verse 1) was populated by mankind and all manner of flora and fauna, but that it was destroyed soon after the fall of Lucifer, thus providing the fossilised corpses and a world ready for God to have another try at creation. The entanglements of this theory become more and more curious the further they are followed. This is all very interesting, but not necessary or edifying!

It is so sad that theologians and others would feel the need to resort to such speculation in order to satisfy some perceived requirement of science. The evidence in the rocks was actually contrary to the hypothesis of Hutton and Lyell, though it might not appear so on a superficial level. As an aside, it should be mentioned that the scientists definitively reject Chalmers’ theory. I should also mention that our Professor MacLeod writes, “I can’t recall a single Scottish theologian of the last 200 years who believed in a literal six-day creation. All accepted the conclusions of geology and took them into account in their attempts to interpret the Book of Genesis.”(18) It is quite startling that almost immediately after writing Chalmers’ name the Professor claims he “can’t recall” that Chalmers was one of those Scottish theologians who believed in a six-day creation. For despite his interesting gap theory, he most certainly was a six-day creationist. Besides applauding Chalmers’ passion for free trade Hugh Miller, a geologist contemporary with Darwin, rejected Chalmers’ gap theory because its geology included a literal six-day creation. It will be useful to quote Miller at length for he defines the gap theory and also shows that pronouncements of modern theologians ought sometimes to be taken with a pile of salt. Miller writes, “[The Gap Theory] teaches, and teaches truly, that between the first act of creation, which evoked out of the previous nothing the matter of the heavens and earth, and the first act of the first day’s work recorded in Genesis, periods of vast duration may have intervened; but further, it insists that the days themselves were but natural days of twenty-four hours each; and that, ere they began, the earth, though mayhap in the previous period a fair residence of life, had become void and formless, and the sun, moon, and stars, though mayhap they had before given light, had been, at least in relation to our planet, temporarily extinguished. In short, while it teaches that the successive creations of the geologist may all have found ample room in the period preceding that creation to which man belongs, it teaches also that the record in Genesis bears reference to but the existing creation, and that there lay between it and the preceding ones a chaotic period of death and darkness. The scheme propounded by the late Dr. Pye Smith, and since adopted by several writers, differs from that of Chalmers in but one circumstance, though an important one. Dr. Smith held, with the great northern divine, that the Mosaic days were natural days; that they were preceded by a chaotic period; and that the work done in them related to but that last of the creations to which the human species belongs.”(19)

Miller and the other scientists rejected the theory of the theologian, Dr. Chalmers. This leaves us wondering whether the theologian, were he alive to recant, would apologise and try to find a new scheme to explain how the Scripture is in accord with the newer geology. Let’s return again to the evidence. Stephen Jay Gould writes: “Lyell relied upon true bits of cunning to establish his uniformitarian view as the only true geology. Lyell imposed his imagination on the evidence.”(19) This means that we once again require a new explanation and the theologians will have to scramble if they want to be cutting-edge. Any theological rendition will, however, be required to retain elements of previous theories as well as eons of time, because another popular dogma is that biological evolution requires billions of years of time in order to happen. Once remove the eons of time, and faith in fairy tales grows thin, which is probably why naturalistic scientists are so adamant about it. Uniformitarianism is under scientific siege these days, but the vast timescales it introduced remain sacrosanct. The believer in a six-day creation remains bemused at all the scampering about.

It is a dangerous game theologians play with the Bible and its followers when they undermine, unconsciously or otherwise, any portion of the Scripture. This is especially true in the case of theories in competition with the Biblical record. Theologians may not recognise the folly, but Lyell did: “If we don’t irritate, which I fear that we may…we shall carry all with us. If you don’t triumph over them, but compliment the liberality and candour of the present age, the bishops and enlightened saints will join us in despising both the ancient and modern physico-theologians. … I conceived the idea five or six years ago, that if ever the Mosaic record of geology could be set down without giving offence, it would be in an historical sketch. …let them feel it, and point the moral.” (21)

I believe that the professional churchmen have been misled due partially to a misunderstanding of the nature and character of science. This is not due to any lack of intelligence, but perhaps because of the way in which scientists have presented their philosophy. The worst and most reckless speculations are presented to the general public as if they were fact. Naturalism is presented as if it were the only and final arbiter of truth. But let us once speculate that the earth is 4.6 billion years old. How could we prove it? We could not use the Bible, except in a speculative sense. The history of redemption entails only a few thousand years from the creation of Adam to the present. This we know for sure. We could only speculate regarding gaps in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Scientifically speaking speculation is also all that is possible. In fact, it is even worse for the scientific case. A theory only qualifies as hard science if it is falsifiable by scientific study (experiment, observation).

“The first test, then, of whether a theory is scientific or not lies not in the subject matter of the theory at all, but in the possibility of its proof or disproof. “(22) The theory that the earth is 4.6 billion years old, is not, strictly speaking, scientific, even though its subject matter (geology, cosmology) has the appearance of being highly scientific. The fact that these events occurred once, at a unique point in time, means that any experiment done cannot falsify that claim. We are not capable of doing an experiment that can disprove the theory – hence the theory is not scientific, but rather a philosophical speculation. Similarly, a theory claiming the earth is young is not falsifiable, even if it is capable of explaining the observations. The sheer fact that we were not there to observe and experiment puts these things beyond the realm of science. We need to rely on something more certain, and we do have this source: the Bible. The naturalistic philosopher rejects this as a source of authority, and prefers speculative fairy tales. We need to be aware of the real, but not widely published, limits of true science, and challenge those who claim an authority for science which God claims is His alone – says God to Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”

References

1. Dingle, H., Science and the Unobservable, in The Scientific Adventure, Pitman and Sons, 1952, p.215.

2. MacLeod, Donald, Footnotes, West Highland Free Press, 18 April 1997.

3. Feynman, Richard, quoted in Heisenberg probably slept here, Brennan, R.P., John Wiley, 1997, p.73.

4. Dingle, H., Science at the Crossroads, Martin Brian and O’Keefe, London, 1972.

5. Setterfield, Barry, The Atomic Constants, Light and Time, Stanford Research International,

6. Albrecht, A. and J. Magueijo, A time varying speed of light as a solution to cosmological puzzles, Phys. Rev. D 59, 0434516, 1999.

7. Barrow, J.D. and J. Magueijo, Solving the flatness and quasi-flatness problems in Brans-Dicke cosmologies with a varying light speed, Phys. Lett. B447, 246, 1999.

8. Is nothing sacred?, The New Scientist Magazine, 163, 2196, p.28, 24 July 1999.

9. “There was a story about the quantum theorist Werner Heisenberg, on his deathbed, declaring that he will have two questions for God: why relativity, and why turbulence. Heisenberg says, “I really think He may have an answer to the first question.””, quoted in Gleick, James, Chaos, Penguin Books, 1987, p.121.

10. Einstein, Albert, quoted in The expanded quotable Einstein, (ed.) A. Calaprice, Princeton University Press, 2000, p.231.   Einstein referred to the quantum mechanics as “real black magic calculus.” (referenced in The Quantum Dice, L I Ponomarev, 1993, IOP, ISBN 0750302518).

11. Calvin, J., quoted in Calvins Wisdom, (ed.) J. Graham Miller, Banner of Truth Trust, 1992, p.243.

12. Dabney, R.L., Geology and the Bible, in Discussions, Vol. III, Ross House Books, 1980 (1892), p.94.

13. Calvin, ibid. p.243.

14. Dabney, ibid. p.98.

15. Lyell, Charles, Principles of Geology, 1830.

16. Hutton, James, Theory of the Earth with Proof and Illustration, 1785.

17. Chalmers, Thomas, The Modesty of True Science, in A series of discourses on the Christian Revelation viewed in connection with the modern astronomy, The American Tract Society, New York, 1817, pp. 63, 64.

18. MacLeod, ibid.

19. Miller, Hugh, The Two Records, Mosaic and Geological, in The Testimony of the Rocks, Edinburgh, 1870, pp. 109, 110.

20. Gould, Stephen Jay, Ever since Darwin, New York, Norton, 1977, pp.149,150.

21. Lyell, Charles, in (ed.) Mrs. Charles Lyell, Life, Letters, and Journal of Charles Lyell, London, John Murray, 1881, pp.270,271.

22. Andrews, E.H., The biblical and philosophical case for special creation, in God, Science and Evolution, Evangelical Press, 1985, p.87.

—————————————————————-

Dr. Wanliss, formerly a Canadian Space Agency Research Scientist. He worked in the Space Weather program, and taught Physics at the University of Alberta.

Dr. James Wanliss currently is a physics professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  Most recently he has taught courses in classical mechanics, and space physics.  His current research focuses on magnetospheric substorms and other space weather phenomena. He is also an ordained Presbyterian Ruling Elder.

Advertisements
 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: