Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Adam’s Navel and the “Appearance of Age”

Answers in Genesis' David Menton writes: "It’s no wonder that for centuries artists have been at a loss to portray just what the first couple’s abdominal region looked like—did they or did they not have a belly button? You will note that artists generally avoided the whole issue by conveniently covering their midsections with nearby foliage". And as the picture above shows the tradition continues at AiG!

Recently an article appeared on the Christian fundamentalist web site Answers in Genesis entitled Creation and the Appearance of Age by David Menton. According to an editor’s note this article was first published in the St. Louis MetroVoice 5, no. 8 in August 1995. The article is therefore 22 years old and evidence that the same tropes go round and round in fundamentalist circles without needing a great deal of modification. The reason why the same well worn arguments and articles are sufficient for a fundamentalist ministry is because they are not trying to convince the academic elite – which they’ve written off as a satanically inspired  conspiracy – but rather they are selling their ideas to an uncritical technically challenged audience who can’t, won’t or don’t have time to think things through for themselves. As long as this audience can see some semblance of plausibility, technicality and academic authority in the articles coming out of a fundamentalist ministry those articles have done their job and sold themselves.

I’ve seen it many times: The paranoid assumption of hard-line fundamentalism is that Christians are in an unrelentingly evil, totally depraved world where every activity that doesn’t fall within the scope of some favoured fundamentalist faction is suspect and cannot be trusted –  even other Christians who are outside that faction; in fact especially other Christians outside that faction. A fine example of this institutionalized paranoia is AiG’s boss Ken Ham: Christian opponents of Ham’s word are condemned by him as heretics following man’s word rather than God’s word (because effectively Ham equates his word with God’s Word). In this context of irrational suspicion it is no surprise that  fundamentalism is fertile ground for conspiracy theorism and some fundamentalists are actually  moving into flat earth theory with its need to adopt a very strong form of conspiracy theorism to make such a theory work – this is an extremum outcome of the social paranoia that drives fundamentalism. In flat earth fundamentalism we have a subculture who are rejecting some very basic established science, science worked out at least 2500 years ago. As far as I can tell this is actually part of a social malaise which extends beyond Christian fundamentalists to New Agers. I fear for civilisation. But I digress.

I’ve looked at the question of  fundamentalism's “appearance of age” before. See these posts:

I’ve also done a series on a related question; namely, the bogus dichotomy mindlessly and endlessly repeated by Ken Ham that observational science is fundamentally distinct from historical science. In support he often quotes technology as an application of “observational science”. He clearly has never had to do any substantial trouble shooting of problems of complex technological artifacts where the observable records and traces left by the fleeting passage of an artifact through history are important in the diagnosis of those problems. A similar point applies to medical science as it attempts to diagnose organic pathology. For my series on this false dichotomy, which is a core doctrine of Ken Ham's anti-science stance, see here:

The 22 year old AiG article I’m looking at can be found here:

Below I interleave quotes from Menton's article with my own comments. We read the following at the start of Menton’s article:

Why, I wonder, would God spend an entire six days doing a miracle that would require of Him literally no time at all? Think about it: How much time does a miracle take? How much time, for example, did Jesus take for His first miracle when He changed water into the finest quality wine (as judged by a professional steward) for the wedding at Cana? The answer, of course, is no time at all—He told the servants to fill the pots with water and serve it! Still, the Bible clearly reveals God took six whole days to initially create everything to perfection; so, we must either take God at His Word, or presume to stand in judgment of all Scripture.

MY COMMENT: No! We cannot conclude that miracles take no time at all: It may seem from a human perspective that a miracle is absolutely instantaneous but we really don’t know just how divisible time is; who knows how many events are spread out over a period too small to register on human time scales during, say, a water-into-wine miracle? If we could zoom in on the time coordinate and see how God sees it, a second could be an aeon in terms of the number events it contains as water converts to wine.

But even if the miracle took no time at all there still remains the question of divine time as measured in terms of the complexity involved in the assembling of the event in God’s mind. My guess is, however, that fundamentalists tend to subliminally view God as a super magician who need only say “abracadabra” and stuff jumps into sight thus consuming neither divine time nor divine thought. As one evangelical song has it“[God] Spoke the stars into existence”.  The belief in a deity who just has to speak high-level commands that don’t break down into a myriad lower level activities is a fundamentalist trope. This is magic. That Menton probably has this magical paradigm in mind, at least subliminally, is evident when he writes:

Think of any one thing that our omnipotent God might instantly create out of nothing by the power of His Word.

That is, sheer word power rather than thinking power creates things. This is magic. Perhaps the theological lesson of Genesis' mythological six-day creation is that it tells us that God is not a lazy pagan magician who can just sit back and speak stuff into existence but a workman who assembles his creations.

Notice also the fundamentalist inquisitional tactic in the last sentence of the quoted paragraph. Here Menton stuffs a straw-man confession into the mouths of those who wouldn’t agree with him; namely, if you don’t agree with Menton about those six literal days then you are presuming to stand in judgement on the Almighty Himself. Fundamentalist paranoia means that they are unwilling to accept that those who disagree with them do so with a clear conscience and don't see themselves as contradicting the Almighty.  (This inquisitional tactic of using straw-man confessions has also been used by fundamentalist Jason Lisle)

The appearance of age in the things that God created is a much-debated issue in contemporary Christian scientific circles. Can God—or more accurately—would God create something that at the very moment of its creation has the appearance of age? The short answer to this question may be: How else? How, indeed, could God create anything that did not appear to us to be aged (like a fine wine) at the moment of its creation.

MY COMMENT: Written in 1994 this article is showing its age, or should I say “maturity”? I think the AiG editorial staff who decided to publish this article will find that there are young earthists nowadays who don’t like the phrase “an appearance of age” and prefer the vaguer “mature creation” as it has less connotation of God building in misleading signs about age into His creation (But see fundamentalist John Byl below).

Menton is wrong: It is possible to conceive objects which have no "appearance of age" and/or are a-historical. Take for example a parameter P which measures some aspect of an object where:

P = A T -1

…and where A is a constant and T measures time. Obviously, here P is the reciprocal of time. If we use this equation then measuring P will immediately give us calculable age. Of course using Menton’s philosophy this age could be misleading because God could have created the object of this equation with a particular value of P, just as he could, according to some fundamentalists, have created star-light-in-transit. Thus the value of T calculated using the above equation is then only an “apparent age” according to Menton.  However, assuming that the values of T are not just apparent, then we find that the object at T=0, on the basis of the above equation, returns an infinity. That is, the object at T=0 is beyond human understanding and humanly speaking to assign an “apparent age” beyond the statement T=0 is meaningless in this context. Ergo, Menton is wrong about not being able to create an object without the “appearance of age”. Presumably God can create such an object.

Another case in point is a Newtonian gravitational system of perfect billiard ball spheres orbiting one another. This system returns no age at all; it could have been there forever or it could have been created out of nothing by God, yesterday; the object is timeless and it betrays no clues as to its history – it is a-historical, it is ageless.

So in summary we find that some objects show signs of having a history and some are a-historical. And of course it is likely that some objects are ambiguous and difficult to fit in either category.

Think of any one thing that our omnipotent God might instantly create out of nothing by the power of His Word.
……Maybe you thought of a visible star—depending on its distance from the earth, its light might appear to have been traveling for over a billion years to reach your eyes. All of these things would have the appearance of age and an ongoing process at the very moment of their creation.

MY COMMENT: This example betrays the dilemma that fundamentalists are in: Do they go the whole hog with “mature creation” and postulate that star light was created in-transit? Or do they get out their pencils and paper and work out theories consistent with a 6000 year time scale and yet which give a history to the star light without having to posit a dubious in-transit creation?

 As we have seen in posts on this blog AiG fundamentalists have recently had a tendency to do their best to drop in-transit star light creation and give starlight a genuine history of propagation of one kind or another. However, these efforts have had limited success (See here, here and here). A similar situation exists in regard to continental drift; a fanatical mature creationist might claim that God created what geologists see as evidences of a history of drift (such as sea floor magnetic patterns) “as we see them, just like that!”. But recently there has been a theory submitted by a young earthist of “runaway” continental drift which attempts to fit all the necessary intervening drifting events into a suitably short time scale. In order to preserve the rational integrity of God’s creation some young earthists are at least trying to do some science rather than short cut science with “mature creation”.

So why do we have these strenuous efforts by fundamentalists who ignore Menton's assertion about the inevitability of the "appearance of age" and attempt to provide histories for objects that are clearly not a-historical? I think it's because they can sense the violation of rational integrity that bland acceptance of an "appearance of age" is liable to lead to. 

The Genesis fundamentalist thus faces a difficult question: Which observed evidences require an historical theory in order to maintain the rational integrity of God’s work and which can be written off as simply “mature creation”? Adam’s navel is a case in point. Of this matter Menton comments:

Also let’s not forget the critically important placenta—its development in the womb necessarily precedes that of the baby so that it can serve the function of a temporary lung, kidney, liver, gut, and endocrine system until the baby develops its own. It’s no wonder that for centuries artists have been at a loss to portray just what the first couple’s abdominal region looked like—did they or did they not have a belly button? (You will note that artists generally avoided the whole issue by conveniently covering their midsections with nearby foliage.)

MY COMMENT: Ken Ham who, as I noted in my Beyond Our Ken series, confidently claims that Adam had no navel and yet accepts that the trees of Eden would have been created with a bogus history of yearly growth rings. Menton, however, being a less bullish authority than Ham, like the artists he speaks of, doesn’t know where to go on the navel question!  (See also the picture at the head of this post which has been taken from one of Ken Ham's children's books)

This whole line of thinking gets us into what is called a “first cause” problem. We live in a “cause and effect” world, where every action causes a reaction and is itself the result of a previous action. Everything appears to be an ongoing process for which we are incapable of really grasping a beginning. This is all popularly expressed in the age-old question: “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” If we say the chicken, we will be asked from whence the chicken came; yet if we say the egg, we will be asked from whence the egg—and so round and round we go. Somewhere, there had to be a beginning to this cyclical process we call the chicken and the egg

MY COMMENT: “First causism” has some issues which are really off-topic in this context so I won’t talk about them here. (But see here). Menton tells us: Everything appears to be an ongoing process for which we are incapable of really grasping a beginning. But as my toy town models show there can exist systems/objects for which an antecedent history is meaningless or is a-historical.

However, in the case of the chickens and egg, as in the question of Adam’s navel, we find a set of observations where to deny a history violates the creation’s rational integrity; to postulate a chicken or an egg first is the biological equivalent of postulating in-transit start-light creation.

Menton concludes with:

We may conclude that the Lord is captive to neither time nor process.

But God is captive to the Truth and Integrity. Therefore He creates a world with rational integrity, not a world of belly buttons without placenta or tree rings without a history of growth or star light without a history of travel. A truthful God makes a creation of intellectual integrity. But if you are prepared to pass up this integrity anything goes. For example, Whitcombe and Morris in The Genesis Flood were quite happy with in-transit photon creation.

As I have said some objects are a-historical (such as two perfect spheres in Newtonian orbits) and some have clear histories like star light, sedimentary rocks, tree rings and Adam’s navel. Some objects are in between and have an ambiguous history, such as an alcohol molecule which can be constructed in the lab or by fermenting grapes. As we saw in my “Beyond Our Ken” series fundamentalists are having problems drawing the line. Some fundamentalists like John Byl will claim that it is perfectly legitimate for God to create objects with an appearance of having a bogus history and in any case Byl suggests that God may do just that to deceive those evil scientists! But as a concession to rational integrity fundamentalist Jason Lisle will claim that star light has traveled the whole distance from its source along the radials leading to Earth, although Lisle has to concede that in-transit photon and graviton creation is needed across non-radial paths. Ken Ham thinks that Adam had no navel but believes the trees in the Garden of Eden were created with rings thus having built into them a bogus history of growth and Sun spot minima.

We get poor quality articles from Ken Ham’s organisation such as we see from David Menton and Danny Faulkner and yet if one doesn't accept their dubious logic Ken Ham will spiritually abuse detractors and spit hell and hamnation in order to spiritually pressure acquiescence. This is the epistemic arrogance of a brutal primitive spiritual logic that at one time sent people to the stake.

ZakDTV tells us about the lunatic fringe. I fear for civilisation!

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