Hi. Just a couple of very short questions.
1) If entropy needs to decrease in order for life on Earth to happen, and I’m not directly addressing evolution here, just the question of this entropy reduction, then surely even regarding the Universe as a closed system, it’s easily big enough to accommodate what in effect is a microsopic decrease in entropy at one tiny locale within it? To draw the question a modicum closer to your own beliefs (which the second question addresses), surely it is the fact that the Creatonist believes in the importance of the planet Earth and the humans on it that causes him or her to regard a decrease in entropy a this particular minute locale within the system of ‘the Universe’ to be so unlikely?
2) My problem with Creationism is that it is Christian Creationism. (One might also add that my problem with evolution is people like Dawkins . . .) Now I guess it is a foregone conclusion that a member of one religious group believes their own religion to be the ‘only’ answer, but would you mind responding *just* to this facet of it? What would be your response to my pointing out that the Bible is a hotchpotch of documents, and since the OT, which is needed by Creationism for the purposes of Genesis, is not actually part of the Christian religion at all but the Jewish, your standpoint as a Christian on this point is somewhat shaky? To make my point more clearly, since Jesus was actually openly antagonistic to the Jews of his time (from moneylenders to Pharisees), what mileage is there in attempting to reconcile Jewish traditional writing with Christian theology? And, if you are interested in using Genesis as the basis for fact (i.e. a scientific/historic work) then I presume your read it in Hebrew? Or are aware of the differences in the versions translated therefrom?
I must admit I found the website very interesting, and have read a fair bit of the Feedback for the last few months. I’ll get round to the rest soon.
Hope you find the time to reply anon, bye for now.
P.S. Re your masthead for the website: isn’t terming the theory of evolution a ‘myth’ semantically unjustifiable? A myth is a *religious* story attempting to explain an observable facte.g. Isis’ tears for Osiris causing the Nile floods (if I remember Egyptian mythology correctly)? Evolutionfor all its faultsis a scientific theory, even if the theory behind the science is wrong-headed on occasion. Moreover, many (all?) pagan myths were very neatly explained by science (cf. the Nile flooding), so I’d use the word cautiously if I were you. Why not ‘Theory’ in commas, emphasising the fact that it might not be thought of as a scientific theory (i.e. something which works) but as a more common definition for theorysomething which has yet to be proven to work???.
Response from Timothy Wallace:
>>1) If entropy needs to decrease in order for life on Earth to happen, and I’m not directly addressing evolution here, just the question of this entropy reduction, then surely even regarding the Universe as a closed system, it’s easily big enough to accommodate what in effect is a microsopic decrease in entropy at one tiny locale within it?<<
First, at the risk of sounding nit picky, I think it’s worth mentioning here that the size of the universe is by no means “known,” and the huge estimations so popularly bantered about as “science” are highly speculative, being themselves based on speculative assumptions:
Second, perhaps for the purpose of this discussion, it would help to draw a distinction between the entropy reduction required for 1) the assumed initial abiogenesis, and 2) the assumed continued “increase” in information-intense organized complexity in biological organisms. In a strictly theoretical sense, one couldn’t be refused the liberty to speculate that the “vast universe” could “accommodate” a localized case of entropy-reduction such that process 1 (above) could take place. However, I would want to ask (and have asked, along with many others) how this event might be hypothesized. The answer is exceedingly evasive when one is confronted with the nuts-and-bolts real world of applied science, for there emerges a mountain of logistical, chemical, and biological challenges when one transcends the shelter of speculative theory.
“Cosmology is unique in science in that it is a very large intellectual edifice based on a very few facts.” Arp, H.C., et al., ...Nature, vol. 346, p. 812.
Thaxton, Bradley & Olsen (1984) have done a nice job of laying out the details and history of the situation. Chapters 7, 8 & 9 of their book may be found on-line beginning at:
Others have conceded that, while it is convenient to theorize the thermodynamic “possibility” of abiogenesis, we have no hard evidence for such a possibilitythough we really should, if the alleged product (life) and process (evolution) set in motion by the alleged event have both been carried forward to the present time.
As for the 2nd process (the assumed continued “increase” in information-intense organized complexity in biological organisms), in a much more direct and observable (and therefore truly scientific) way, such a proposed process is not possible without a specific, identifiable, and fully-functional mechanism in place to do the work of increasing the quantity and quality of genetic information. Such a mechanism has evaded detection and remains unknown and scientifically unobserved. Again the question has to be asked: Even granting the assumption that such a decrease in entropy might be “possible” (though logistically it is so extremely unlikely as to be essentially impossible), why do we find no indication that such has taken place (or is taking place) through plain, scientific, empirical observation?
>>To draw the question a modicum closer to your own beliefs (which the second question addresses), surely it is the fact that the Creatonist believes in the importance of the planet Earth and the humans on it that causes him or her to regard a decrease in entropy a this particular minute locale within the system of ‘the Universe’ to be so unlikely?<<
I think the first part of my answer (to the first part of your question) may have addressed this aspect somewhat. The importance of the Earth itself to one’s belief system is not quite so relevant when the facts of science are being weighed against one theory or another, no matter what may be the philosophical/religious basis of either framework.
On the other hand, yes, the Bible does indeed indicate that God’s focus is (and has been) very much on mankind in general and individuals in particular, making the Earth the apparent primary focal point in His unfolding history through time from the very beginning. This could justifiably be seen as an awfully arrogant point of view, but only if it were wrong (and it has been my experience that those who hasten to insist that it is wrong, or that it has been proven wrong, are invariably the least qualified to make such a claim, and therefore remarkably arrogant in their own special way).
>>2) My problem with Creationism is that it is Christian Creationism...<<
You are obviously not alone in this... :->
>>Now I guess it is a foregone conclusion that a member of one religious group believes their own religion to be the ‘only’ answer, but would you mind responding *just* to this facet of it?<<
First, I hope you can appreciate the fact that there was a time when I asked precisely the question that you are asking here; that I have not always been a “narrow-minded, dogmatic, fundamentalist...” ...Christian.
Second, it stands to reason that, upon careful examination of their doctrines, all the different religious groups can’t be right. And, contrary to what I once chose to believe, they can’t even “each be right for their own respective adherents,” for they all teach certain different and conflicting things as absolute truth, even though they may generally (and in some cases unwittingly) agree with each other on a few points (e.g., by discouragingif not condemningtheft as morally unacceptable). And what kind of “God” would He be who would manifest so many contradictory versions of the “truth”?
So before one can hope to find a solution to this puzzle (still assuming a solution may exist), I have become fully convinced that one must reach a place where one is willing to accept that: 1) there may indeed really be a God who transcends all the “religion” of men; that 2) this God purposefully makes the truth known to those who are really willing to accept it; and that 3) one’s personal willingness to embrace and obey that truth is a reasonable condition of His revealing it to one.
From personal experience I can tell you that I sampled a variety of religious perspectives, and became pretty excited about some of them. In no case did I wind up with a sense that I was any better off, except in that I thought I “knew” the “truth.” It was a genuine disappointment to gain mere head-knowledge, only to discover that I was invariably still saddled with the task of handling my own self-improvement, for there was no spiritual
“power” in the “knowledge” to really effect any lasting, worthwhile change (i.e., improvement or enduring happiness) in me.
After some years of this, and with a sense of uncertainty concerning the direction of my life (and whether having a direction or plan really mattered anyway), I ended up in pretty bad shape, alone and lonely (though not without “friends”), and addicted to alcohol, tobacco, and (even if “only mentally”) marijuana. I remember very distinctly one day calling out to “God” (still wondering if He were there), telling Him there just had to be a better way, that this couldn’t be the “deliverance” offered by the “knowledge” of “religious truth.”
>>What would be your response to my pointing out that the Bible is a hotchpotch of documents...<<
My response would begin with the fact that this is exactly what I believed throughout the time described immediately above, having been assured by my spiritual mentors that scholars had settled the truth of this matter long ago: Sure, there were some nice “nuggets of truth” in the Bible, but who would believe that stuff about the whole Bible somehow being the “Word of God”?
This view was changed dramatically when I began to examine the possibility that what I had been believing may not have been the truth. Not only did I find that the Bible (and the records, testimonies, and doctrines it contains) is remarkably cohesive for such a “hotchpotch of documents,” but upon close examination, one becomes confronted with a choice: 1) either the whole book is pure rubbish, and one need not trouble one’s self to honor, fear and obey the God of Whom it testifies, or 2) the whole book is indeed very likely the Word of God, as it has been called ever since compilation of the New Testament was complete. Why? In short, because of WHO Jesus Christ claims to be (God Himself, manifest in human form), and WHAT He says about His message to mankind (that it will not pass away).
In other words, either He is a clown, Whose person and message may be disregarded, or He is Who He says He is, and is therefore quite capable of seeing to it that His message is adequately contained and preserved in written form and made available to those who are willing to receive it.
I could go on a great deal more with this, but I must suppose you will get the general idea from what I have written thus far. You are welcome to frame questions in response.
>>...since the OT, which is needed by Creationism for the purposes of Genesis, is not actually part of the Christian religion at all but the Jewish, your standpoint as a Christian on this point is somewhat shaky?...<<
The Hebrew Scriptures document the Living God’s involvement in the history of mankind from the very beginning of creation. Man, created as a free agent, was persuaded to rebel against the Creator (“The Fall”), and has carried with him an inherent tendency to do the same ever since. The Scriptures track God’s dealings with a series of men and women and their descendants, as He has unfolded His purposeful movement in history towards an undoing of “The Fall” and its effects.
Part of this history includes men to whom God revealed Himself with particular clarity, and who served as His prophets, speaking to their contemporaries on many things given to them from God to say, including a variety of matters that were foretold (and then came to pass as described). Among these foretelling prophecies are many which were fulfilled only in the person of Jesus Christ, Whom some among His countrymen (the Jews)
embraced as the Messiah, and others rejected.
The teachings of Jesus are an extension, and illuminationand by no means a contradictionof what is contained in the Hebrew Scriptures. He was a Jew, and the Church He established was initially comprised of Jews, but He declared His New Covenant with men (based on the undoing of The Fall and its effects by His own substitutionary deathand resurrection) to be open to all men, not Jews only, which is how Christianity emerged from within the nation of Israel and spread across the world among the gentiles, the Church quickly becoming predominantly of gentile origin (in terms of national stock).
To say that “the OT...is not actually part of the Christian religion at all but the Jewish,” is to miss the flow of biblical history, as well as the contents and context of the doctrines contained in both the Hebrew and New Covenant Scriptures. It is furthermore noteworthy that Jesus and the apostles (whose combined words comprise the text of the New Testament) frequently quote the OTincluding Genesis (and a quite literal
context)so it can scarcely be argued that these men saw their “Christianity” as separate and unconnected from the record contained in the Hebrew Scriptures.
>>...since Jesus was actually openly antagonistic to the Jews of his time (from moneylenders to Pharisees), what mileage is there in attempting to reconcile Jewish traditional writing with Christian theology?<<
Jesus was indeed openly antagonistic to those Jews who believed that outward appearance was all that was required for “righteousness” in God’s eyes. He was not antagonistic to ALL Jews by any means (His disciples were Jews, most of whom wanted to learn from Him, and He didn’t treat them as He did the moneylenders or the Pharisees). The focus of Christ’s antagonism was that these people were completely missing the heart of God, having contorted His commands into a “religion” of rules, the following of which they presumed to earn them a higher place in His scheme of things.
I believe I have already addressed to some extent the error of presuming a need to “reconcile” the Hebrew Scriptures with Christian theology. If I need to explain this further in general, or you would care to discuss some specific detail(s), please feel free to initiate on this.
>>And, if you are interested in using Genesis as the basis for fact (i.e. a scientific/historic work) then I presume your read it in Hebrew? Or are aware of the differences in the versions translated therefrom?<<
I do not read Hebrew, but I do have the aid of a concordance, lexicons and other language aids for studying the original language of both Testaments. And yes, I am aware of the many and varied “differences in the versions translated” which, of course, depend largely on the purposes and views of the translators.
>>Re your masthead for the website: isn’t terming the theory of evolution a ‘myth’ semantically unjustifiable?...<<
My dictionary includes “a story or belief that attempts to explain a basic truth” and “a belief or subject of belief whose truth or reality is accepted uncritically.” I find that these definitions apply to evolutionism satisfactorily, and I would further stress that the *religious* implications of evolutionism (often hotly denied by its adherents) have not
been lost on me.
>>Evolutionfor all its faultsis a scientific theory, even if the theory behind the science is wrong-headed on occasion.<<
Technically, to qualify as a scientific theory, it is conventional that the theory find some at least marginally unequivocal substantiation from empirical science. While there are those who still maintain that such support exists, I for one am hard-pressed to find someone who will publish or present any such support, and even the amount of equivocal support has been greatly eroded in recent decades, as new knowledge has been gained in
the actual applied sciences (genetics, biochemistry...). With due respect, I am thus hard-pressed to concede the status of “scientific theory” to evolution.
>>...so I’d use the word cautiously if I were you.<<
Please understand that I did not select the word “myth” flippantly, but with much thought and deliberation. I presently find that the word more suitable than I did when I first chose to employ it.
>>Why not ‘Theory’ in commas, emphasising the fact that it might not be thought of as a scientific theory (i.e. something which works) but as a more common definition for theorysomething which has yet to be proven to work???.<<
Your comments are truly appreciated. I will keep your suggestion in mind, and may eventually decide to change the text. I am aware that there are those who react with near-violence upon seeing evolution termed a myth, and it is not my primary aim to enrage my evolutionist counterparts. On the other hand, I was reluctant to settle for less than the word “myth” since it really embodies the reality of the situation from where I sit, and it
seems a suitable response to the “Talk.Origins” masthead, which less-than-honestly suggests a body of material “exploring” the origins debate, when the contents of that site is predominately and strongly biased both in favor of evolutionism and against creationism.
I thank you for your thoughtful questions and comments, please feel free
to write again.