Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Beyond Our Ken. On Mature Creation Part 3.

The God Delusion: Are the Depths of Space a Simulacrum?

In the previous part of this series we left our Ken (Ham) sailing close the wind on the issue of mature creation. Could Ken successfully distinguish between historical and a-historical objects, thus enabling him to unambiguously define a class of object that can be created ex-nihilo, “just like that”, without incurring the penalty of an implicit bogus history? If he can find this class then a Creator could conjure up a cosmos of these objects, “just like that”, and this thoroughly a-historical universe can then act as the boot-strap for a subsequent history. But conceiving a thoroughgoing a-historical universe is no mean task; the real world is strewn with evidences of history. For example, Adam’s infamous navel seems a fairly open and shut case; it clearly signifies a history in the womb, a history that according to a literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve story never happened. Therefore, as we saw in Part 2, Adam’s navel is banned at "Answers in Genesis". But the demarcation between what is historical and what is a-historical is not always obvious: I was surprised to see that Ken was quite comfortable with the idea that the trees in the Garden of Eden were created with tree rings, rings that speak silently of a history of differential growth. So which evidences of apparent history does Ken and AiG permit and which do they not permit?

There is no doubt that Ken and AiG are doing their damndest to try and restore integrity to YEC science by attempting to use science to explain how blatantly historical features are consistent with a short 6000 year history. For example, AiG do not deny that continental drift has occurred, and they try to reconcile it with their time frame using a theory of run-a-way subduction. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this theory we note that AiG at least respect the geological observations enough to attempt to build a theory around them, rather than just shrugging their shoulders as if science was beneath their otherworldly spirituality.

But the difficulties with Ken’s and AiG’s attempt to find a compromise with science not only runs counter to mainstream science but also, according to YEC scientist John Byl, to the very concept of mature creation itself. Ultra fundamentalist John Byl has written a book called “God and Cosmos” and in this book he is critical of YEC cosmologies that attempt to solve the star light travel time problem. Towards the end of his book Byl reviews some of these cosmologies including the cosmology of Russ Humphreys whose ideas I looked at here and here. Byl concludes that within his purview all these theories are wanting because they all employ ad-hoc features – that is, they attempt to fix the books with special pleading (See God and Cosmos, Byl 2001):

P201 In conclusion, while it is clear that various creationist cosmologies can be constructed, it must be acknowledged that most of these models are rather ad-hoc, have not been worked out in much detail, and often have few distinctive observational implications. As such they are unlikely to convince skeptics.

The difficulty of creating “mature” objects without incurring a “bogus history” penalty was mentioned in my last post. Byl obligingly gives us another example of this difficulty in relation to star formation:

P195 It must be generally assumed that stars were not formed via a long natural process, but were created virtually instantaneously in a miraculous fashion. A star created as a unit would have its various parts in appropriate gravitational, thermal and radiative relationships otherwise the star would not remain stable. Light at the surface of a star would not have originated from the interior of the star as would be assumed by theories of stellar evolution. Rather, such light would have been created at the surface, ‘en route’, and could be interpreted to have an apparent prior history.

To reinforce the point Byl goes on to say:

P196 Similar considerations apply to an entire galaxy created as unit in mature form. It would be created complete with all its constituent parts: stars and gas, their gravitational fields, and light radiation. Both the light photons and gravitational effects would have been created ‘en route’, but apparently originating from stars. The same reasoning could be applied to clusters of galaxies and even larger systems that seem to be in gravitational interaction. In a young universe, with insufficient time for gravity to act, they would have to be created as a unit, complete with their internal gravitational interactions. If gravity moves at the speed of light, as assumed by general relativity, then creating large astronomical objects with gravitational fields in place seems equivalent to creating light photons 'en route'.

On a stellar and cosmic scale Byl asserts that “just like that” creationism cannot avoid an appearance of history and he is probably right. In consequence it seems that he favours going back to Whitcomb and Morris’ idea of the whole cosmic shebang being created with a bogus history of star light travel and super novae events:

P196: It is thus a small step to extend the notion of mature creation to the entire universe. Could not the whole astronomical cosmos have been created as a full blown unit, complete, not only with stars and galaxies in gravitational interaction, but also with photons of light created at the same instant as the stars from which they are apparently derived as suggested by John C Whitcomb and Henry Morris?

P201 It must be kept in mind that….if the creation of light (or gravity) en route is ruled out on the grounds that God is not deceptive, this applies equally to the instantaneous creation of mature clusters of galaxies, single galaxies and even stars. All these objects, being of finite size, would apparently have needed a period of time for all the gravitational and radiative interactions to form properly functioning wholes. Instantaneous creation would necessarily have created fictitious past histories for gravitation and light.

Byl does make an attempt to justify the acceptance of bogus histories. In response to the charge that bogus history entails a kind of deception by God Byl mentions an argument by Andrews:

P200 How valid is this charge? Andrews argues that God can hardly be charged with deception if mature creation is revealed in scripture.

Andrews notes that God does at times hide the truth from the “wise and prudent” while revealing it to babes (matt 11:25). The fault should be attributed to those whose minds are blinded rather than to God. …. God sends a strong delusion upon those who reject the truth, to make them believe that which is false.

In support of this “God delusion” , so to speak, Byl quotes Roy Clouser:

Scripture does say that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Heb 6:18), but these remarks occur in an explicitly covenantal context meaning that he cannot lie to believers because he has promised not to. It should be borne in mind that at other loci Scripture specifically says that God deceives those who are not believers (See Ezek 14:9, 2 Thess 2:11)

According to the foregoing “bogus history” is God’s method of deceiving unbelievers into believing a lie. Contrary to Roy Clouser’s statement, however, it seems that the Divine deception has also taken in a lot of believers; unless, of course, Byl and Clouser don’t class them as believers, in which case they deserve to be deceived by God’s “white lie” according to them! In Byle’s world bogus history, and even Divine deception, is above board and morally justified. This moral justification is all but forced on Byl because in cosmology mature creation and bogus history are so very difficult separate: For example, as Byl himself suggests, it is difficult to imagine the creation of mature galaxies and stars without a concomitant bogus history being built into them. In the face of this difficulty Byl is forced to go as far to propose how Divine Deception can be whitewashed.

Whether bogus history theory and Divine deception can, in fact, be justified is not the point - the point is that it leaves Ken Ham and Co with one almighty cosmic problem. They find themselves caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: Either they accept a thoroughgoing version of bogus history theory as suggested by Byl or they face the tough task of getting their cosmological theories right. They appear to have opted for the latter, of course, but as Byl points out, these theories are, so far, rather ad-hoc and consequently they have the touch and feel of contrivance. On top of that, as Byl also points out, without resort to bogus histories star and galaxy formation seem especially difficult subjects for YECs. The difficulties of separating out historical and a-historical objects are compounded in cosmology.

Spurred on by their rather half baked cosmologies my guess is that AiG are likely to hunker down and hope that a cosmology will one day pop out of the wood work which reconciles the paradox of a mere 6000 year history with stellar interactions that require tens of thousands, even millions of years to mature. Instead John Byl’s alternative vision of the entire Cosmos as a charade is unthinkable. Byl is willing to extrapolate “instantaneous” star and galaxy formation to the whole Cosmos, thus raising the spectre of an enormous divinely perpetrated illusion intended to deceive mankind. This deception would be no one-off and carefully framed miracle like say the conversion of water into wine; instead the deception is on a routine and huge scale. For, as Byl hints, “unbelieving” man looks into the cosmos and is deceived into thinking it is a real cosmos when in fact he is seeing something that is not there, or rather I should say something that was not there millions of years ago. Science, of course would be helpless in the face of this misleading data as the universe would no longer have a rational integrity and coherence. Ironically then, Byl presents us with the prospect of God as the first postmodernist, the creator of a hyperreality and simulacrum on a stupendous scale, a simulacrum designed to foil the grand narratives of science.

Amazing, I know, but like John Byl's Cosmos, it's not really there!

…to be continued…

STOP PRESS 26/2/2011: Somebody has sent me a link to this review of John Byl's book "God and Cosmos". It outlines some of the flaws in Byl's thinking, in particular Byl's anti-realism.


Anonymous said...

For a 2003 review of the book in Presbyterion by Old Testament scholar C. John Collins, see here.

Anonymous said...

That review is no longer there, but here.

Timothy V Reeves said...

Thanks very mucb