First Person Life

2006-04-13

Faith in Science

I recently found myself needing to respond to the "dinosaurs aren't referenced in the Bible, so science and Scripture are incompatible" argument (see comments to:But Isn't Science Unbiased?). Here's my response (it became too long to be a comment -- and blogger wouldn't let me format it the way I wanted as a comment).

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but, you know what, there are bones of "lizards as big as a house" all over this planet. Yes, there are things that are hard to infer about them, but, they were here, they laid eggs, they're not here any more, and the ancient Hebrews knew nothing about them ...

This is a false argument. There are a couple of reasons there is a limited amount of information about dinosaurs in Scripture (I'll get to what is there later).

First, the Scriptures show us the nature of mankind. Namely, we are sinners. "Sin is the revolt of mans will against the will of God, a revolt of the creature against the Creator, a revolt of man's selfishness against God's holy love." (J.M. Reu - Faith and Life, 1935).

While revealing sin is one of the purposes of Scripture, its highest purpose is to show us how God has answered the problem of sin. Namely, He sent His Son to be born, suffer and die. Jesus Christ was not simply a "hero" in the Christian religion, He is God himself who took on human flesh and "dwelt among us" (John 1). He suffered the punishment that every man, woman and child who has lived, does live, or will live deserves for their willful revolt against God. And after His death, He rose again to life, proving that he had fully accomplished that work and mankind now stands in a right relationship to God. This is the core of the Scriptures -- and thereby the core of the Christian faith.

These two things, knowledge of our sinful condition and God's work to restore us to fellowship with Him are the purposes of Scripture. In that narrative, there is little need to reference the minute details of the other creatures that God created on the earth. Scriptures are not intended to be a science textbook. They have a specific purpose -- to tell us of Jesus.

On the other hand, Scriptures do contain a lot of information about the world that God created because they contain factual accounts of that world in history. Unfortunately, the scientific method didn't exist during the writing of the Old and New Testaments, so like the ancient "dragon" stories, we have to be careful how much "science" we do with them.

But to counter your statement that the "ancient Hebrews knew nothing about them," I offer the following biblical evidence for both dinosaurs as well as very large sea creatures and creatures that sound very much like "dragons" (fire breathing and all). Here's an excerpt from Job chapters 40 and 41:

Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together. His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron. He is the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him . Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play. He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens. The shady trees cover him with their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about. Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth. He taketh it with his eyes: his nose pierceth through snares. (Job 40:15-24 KJV)

Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn? Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee? Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants? Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears? Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more. Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me? Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine. I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion. Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle? Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about. His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal. One is so near to another, that no air can come between them. They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered. By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth. In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him. The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved. His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone . When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves. The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble. Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear. Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire. He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment. He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary. Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things : he is a king over all the children of pride. (Job 41 - KJV)


There's also Psalm 74:13-14 (KJV):
Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.


[My apologies for the stiff KJV, but it's public domain and I won't get sued for using it.]

Then there is other literature, like Enoch 12:1:
And I looked and saw other flying elements of the sun, whose names (are) Phoenixes and Chalkydri, marvellous and wonderful, with feet and tails in the form of a lion, and a crocodile’s head


[NOTE: Enoch is not considered "Scripture" by most Christians because it has a questionable textual tradition (i.e. we don't really know who wrote it or when) and it doesn't much treat the main theme of Scripture -- namely the salvation of mankind.]

So, to say, "the ancient Hebrews knew nothing about them," is (dare I say it), "unscientific". Looking to the observations recorded by ancient writers of the Hebrew Scriptures, we see evidence of very large, fire-breathing creatures roaming the earth. Now, THERE'S science by observation!

I'm not arguing, like many misguided fundamentalist bible-thumpers, that science and scripture are completely incompatible. I am saying that science should stick with what it's good at - making observations and inferences based upon those observations. Until they create a time-machine and go back 4.5 billion years to watch the universe explode in the big-bang, I'm under no obligation to believe that it's true.

Furthermore, until they observe transitions between discernable "kinds" of creatures, there is nothing but faith in a fancy story about how it might have happened. At this point it becomes two faith systems arguing against each other -- what is that but two different religions arguing against each other?

That is why I have concluded that "walking fish," "big bang," "evolution," and a plethora of other creative stories are not scientific (according the the National Academy of Science's own definition, mind you). Science needs to stick to observation and inference based upon observation. As the judge in the Kitzmiller decision said:

NAS is in agreement that science is limited to empirical, observable and ultimately testable data: Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science. (emphasis mine)


Let's stick to that definition of Science and all of these arguments between "faith and Science" disappear. In addition millions (if not billions) of dollars in research money will be freed up to fight disease, pollution, and other problems that affect the world now rather than chasing after E.T. with ham radios or trying to figure out where we came from.

From a scientific vantage point, why does it really matter where we came from anyway? We're here now, we have problems now, let's use research money on those... leave the rest of it to the theologians and philosophers to argue about.

For more information about the Christian Faith and Dinosaurs, I recommend Genesis and the Dinosaur by Erich A. von Fange, Ph.D. It's apparently out of print right now, but that may change soon.

10 Comments:

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Axinar, at 4/13/2006 9:00 PM  

  • Now let's tackle this one for a second:

    "Furthermore, until they observe transitions between discernable 'kinds' of creatures, there is nothing but faith in a fancy story about how it might have happened."

    Okay ... now how EXACTLY are you proposing that what we have observed got here?

    Was the entire observable universe created precisely as it is now only 6000 years ago as one would sit down and create a painting on canvass and then maybe later the Devil or some such "planted" fossils in the rocks to "mislead" us into thinking we have ancestors who could breathe water?

    Is the universe actually monstrously old and God simply "snaps his fingers" and produces an entire species from nothing every now and again? Wouldn't this scare the bejesus out of the other animals?

    Or, much like the Jesus story, does God, oh, simply impregnate a dinosaur with a chicken egg every now and again?

    By Blogger Axinar, at 4/13/2006 9:02 PM  

  • It all depends on how you interpret the fossils, and which ones you consider; axinar.

    By Blogger Althusius, at 4/13/2006 10:14 PM  

  • Okay ... now how EXACTLY are you proposing that what we have observed got here?

    Although it took me a minute to parse this sentance, I think I understand your question.

    If I'm reading you right, you're asking for my theory of the origins of everything.

    I'm not the one saying I know and can prove my understanding. Therefore, I'm not required to give an answer to that question. "Science" is saying they know and can prove it. And I'm saying that "science" cannot give an answer to that question based upon its own rules. I'm also saying that the theory of evolution is an unscientific, faith based system. Being faith based, it is therefore a "religious" system.

    SCIENCE properly speaking and according to the definition promulgated by the National Academy of Sciences, is unable to answer the question of origins because the data required is unobservable. We are capable only of seeing the aftermath of what got us to this point and making inferences based on that aftermath.

    According to the National Academy of Sciences: "Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from confirmable data - the results obtained through observation and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence ARE NOT PART OF SCIENCE" (emphasis mine - quoted from: Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, by the National Academy of Sciences, page 27).

    Therefore, according to the definitions used by the National Academy of Sciences, we cannot scientifically determine origins.

    To date, nobody has observed [macro]evolution in action, therefore, it is unscientific. We have observed the world around us and inferred that this was caused by evolution, but those inferences were not based upon pure observation but were based upon observation, assumption and inference.

    One of the underlying assumptions is "that the present arises from materials and forms of the past" (National Academy of Sciences - National Education Standards).

    There's no escaping that this is an entirely unprovable statement. It's an assumption which is taken on faith.

    The evolutionist must prove, by observation, that this statement is true -- which is an impossible task. Therefore, everything based upon this assumption is unscientific by definition because, as the National Academy of Sciences has stipulated, "Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence ARE NOT PART OF SCIENCE."

    However, although I am not required to give an answer to the origins of the universe, I will...

    As a theologian, my answer would be to read the story of creation as a literal event that happened as the Scriptures indicate it happened. God, through the power of His Word, created the universe and the creatures that inhabit it in a literal six day creation as Genesis 1 and 2 record. This was done ex nihilo (out of nothing -- literally nothing, not some soupy goop that already existed). The various "kinds" of creatures reproduce in accordance with their genetic make-up in the manner determined by God at their creation. There may be some "speciation" in the process, but there are still borders past which animals will not "evolve". An example of what is not possible would be a fish becoming a mammal. I don't claim to know where those borders are.

    Nothing in science (using the NAS definition as my definition for science) disagrees with the literal reading of Genesis. It is only when a different faith-based system is substituted for the theological framework of Scripture that there is a problem.

    We therefore have two competing religions.

    As to the "planting" of fossils, I'm not sure we have to go there. The ante-deluvian flood (i.e. the story of Noah) is enough to account for the fossil evidence we see. The possibility that such a cataclysm would significantly disrupt the ratios of chemical isotopes in air, rock, bone, etc. would account for the apparent "age" of the earth based upon the observable data we see.

    Furthermore, There is no reason to assume that every "sub-kind" (think species) of animal was on the ark - Genesis 6 only speaks of God commanding Noah to bring on board the ark representatives of the various "kinds" of animals. So it's possible, for instance, that he brought "bears" on board. Then, since the flood, the various species we see today can be traced back to that one species - but all are of the biblical "kind" bear. [NOTE: the Biblical "Kind" should not be confused the the taxonomic "Kind" used in determining supposed "familial" relationships of the various animals]

    In the same vein, these kinds may have had various "sub-kinds" (again, think species) which evolved from it's biblical "kind" prior to the flood. Because they were "sub-kinds," they were not brought on the ark -- and therefore perished in the flood - creating fossils for us to find today.

    This would explain 2 things. First, why these animals no longer exist today. Second, why we do not see "macro-evolution" today (i.e. there never was "macro-evolution" and what we infer as "macro-evolution" is just the result of the flood's extermination of so many sub-species that themselves were related to the various "kinds" of animals we do see today).

    Of course, much of this is speculation, but it's as good of speculation as anything else and based on just as good of an assumption.

    Rather than assuming that matter is eternally existent, as the evolutionist posits, I assume that matter was spoken into existence by an omnipotent God. From a scientific vantage point, both are just as valid because both are statements of faith and both are unscientific (according to the National Academy of Sciences definition) because neither is observable.

    So, my statement stands, until there is observation of transitions between discernable "kinds" of creatures, we are arguing religion and nobody is making a scientific argument. Therefore, anything anyone says is, "a fancy story about how it might have happened."

    I believe God inspired the story to be written down and that record is reliable. Those who believe in evolution made it up from whole cloth themselves.

    -0-0
    Well -- I think that horse is quite dead... with all the kicking it got, I'm sure it's bones are quite deformed and will be confused as something else when it's fossil is found --

    And we haven't even begun to discuss the human and dinosaur footprints which have been found side by side in numerous places. An observable fact which any rational mind (except of course the evolutionist) would infer meant that they lived at the same time.

    By Blogger dm42, at 4/13/2006 11:07 PM  

  • "And we haven't even begun to discuss the human and dinosaur footprints which have been found side by side in numerous places. An observable fact which any rational mind (except of course the evolutionist) would infer meant that they lived at the same time."

    Now that one was debunked LONG ago.

    At FIRST GLANCE it looks for all the world like human and dinosaur footprints side by side, but a more careful examination reveals the "human" footprints to merely be a smaller species of dinosaur.

    By Blogger Axinar, at 4/14/2006 12:04 AM  

  • However, it does bring us to our next question ...

    How do you account for the fact that all reptiles and mammals pass through a period in gestation when they have gill slits?

    By Blogger Axinar, at 4/14/2006 12:05 AM  

  • AND, you still have not answered my original question.

    Let's break it down a bit to one particular verse, Genesis 1:24 -

    "God said, 'The earth shall bring forth particular species of living creatures, particular species of livestock, land animals, and beasts of the earth.' It happened."

    Now here we are, Day Six (reminiscent of Carl Sagan's "Cosmic Calendar" that, if you compress the age of the universe into a single year all of human history is in the last 10 seconds of December 31st), presumably sometime shortly after sundown as this is when days begin in the Hebrew Calendar - so we're at - what? - say 7pm on 1 Oct 3760 BCE, and God COMMANDS the soil itself to morph into a cow?

    Precisely what did this LOOK like?

    Did this process take a minute or so? Or did the cow simply appear instantaneously?

    By "bring forth" it almost sounds as if it took a minute or so.

    In that minute or so do you suppose there may have been several seconds when the forming cow may have been half-dirt and half-cow?

    As plants were created three days before is it possible that the dirt that was commanded to form a cow may have been somehow "contaminated" with plant DNA and that caused the cow to share identifiable sections of DNA with plants?

    By Blogger Axinar, at 4/14/2006 12:18 AM  

  • As for ontogeny and phylogeny - I'm not one to tell you why God decided that gestation should happen the way it does... ask Him when you see Him.


    Re: What did it look like when the animals were created -- couldn't tell you that either. When they build the time machine to go back and witness the big-bang, maybe they could make a side-trip to 7pm 1 OCT 3760 BCE on the way and check it out.

    And finally, you still haven't engaged my main point -- in what way is evolution "scientific" if it requires faith in an unprovable assertion in order to be true? You can't say you don't have evidence to the contrary because you do. You have the Hebrew and Christian scriptures as well as other faith traditions who assert another way that it happened.

    From a scientific vantage point, whether you believe in creation or gnostic aeons or the eternal existence of matter (as evolutionists do), all are just as scientifically invalid because they are not based on observation.

    By Blogger dm42, at 4/14/2006 12:38 AM  

  • Talk about DEBUNKED, gill slits have no slits, they should more probably be called pharyngeal arches. They develop into the thymus gland, the parathroid glands, and the ear canal.

    By Blogger Althusius, at 4/14/2006 7:17 PM  

  • As this is getting quite extended I have answered the latest here.

    By Blogger Axinar, at 4/14/2006 8:32 PM  

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