Whose Attitude More Closely Resembled the Christian Life?


(Mazrocon) #1

Kind of a wordy title … but let me explain.

It happens that I chanced upon a pretty heated dialogue between two Christians online. The first was Glenn Morton, a former young-earth creationist who couldn’t square his beliefs with what he knew about geology, and the second was John Baumgardner, a geophysicist and young-earth creationist to the full.

Here is the discussion:

"Ok, John, I have stayed out of it up until now. Such a statement is simply nonsense. There is no evidence of a global flood in the rocks. A 36,500 foot pile of sediment (which is not exceptional) means that 100 feet per day of sediment must have been deposited ON AVERAGE during a one year flood. That means 4 feet per hour. Most burrowers can’t burrow that quickly and would quickly be buried.

Ophiomorpha, a burrower in marine sediments lines its burrows with its fecal pellets. Why do we see fecal pellets lining a burrow in Jurassic sediments of the North Sea (see picture below). Why can I regularly find burrows throughout an entire well bore? Burrows in these well-bores occupy thousands of feet of sediment.

see http://home.entouch.net/dmd/burrows.htm

But here are a couple of pictures for you. The Jurassic ophiomorpha burrow with fecal pellets lining the burrow and one of the core photos with thousands of feet of burrowed sediment. Please explain how this happens in a global flood.

John, there is NO evidence of a global flood in the rocks."

That was Glenn Morton speaking. Later in the discussion John Baumgardner replies with the following:

""One thing that strikes me in this interaction is how little respect for God and His Word exists in this place. Most seem oblivious that they face a judgment before a terrible Judge who will not look upon their mockings and blasphemies lightly. One of those this Judge carefully mentored wrote “that in the last days, mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?’” This spokesman for the Judge predicted the sort of mocking I have observed on this site. But observe the excuse for their mocking the idea of the Judge’s return: “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” They appeal to a uniformitarian understanding of the earth and its past in which there has been no divine interventions in the realm of the physical. The spokesman then points out that to make such an appeal these mockers are being willfully ignorant of God’s destruction of the world by water in the Flood. This passage in 2 Peter 3:3-6 predicts a future time when mockers, by willful ignorance of God’s horrendous judgment of the world recorded in Genesis 6-8,instead adopt a materialist interpretation of physical world that excludes divine action past or future. I therefore with trembling appeal to you to turn from this Satanic snare and be saved from the certain loss into which it leads.

The Bible does not equivocate concerning the reality that the Flood was physical judgment of the entire planet. The words mean what they say, regardless of the protests the scoffers may throw up. Christians are also playing with fire when they willfully ‘sit in the seat of scoffers’ and advocate a hermeneutic that in effect makes God a liar.

So despite all the scoffing and ridicule, based on the confidence I have in who the Judge is and also on my awareness of the Bible’s integrity and reliability, I stand on my conclusion that the Flood was a world-destroying cataclysm responsible for all but the topmost portion of the Phanerozoic rock record. There will be a day when the truth of this matter evident to all. Pascal frequently spoke to his friends in terms of his famous wager. This is a different wager, but you all now know where I have placed my entire lot of chips."

Obviously this discussion is tense. My question is twofold:

Question #1: Which person, Glenn Morton or John Baumgardner, better displayed the Christian attitude (or spirit?) in how seriously they take Scripture and how seriously they take Nature? (It would be helpful also to use Bible passages to make your point and not just mere opinion).

Question #2: What does 2nd Peter 3 truly communicate? Was Peter really making a case against the future use of Uniformitarianism in regards to the Flood, like Baumgardner et al fervently imply? I know of other Bible passages, and Second Temple texts that would seem to say something different. What was the context and subject matter of Peter’s epistle?

I think this conversation demonstrates pretty accurately the positions of both sides — I appreciate any and all thoughts on the matter.

-Tim


(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

Tim, you ask a good question regarding who is best modeling “a Christian attitude” (whatever that may be in this scenario), but I think your 2nd question is what most interests the disputants involved as it focuses on the hard labor of pursuing and promoting truth, and less on the emotional spin off for all involved.

Glenn Morton is obviously an extremely driven man on pursuing that truth, and he used to have a web site that listed the breathtaking reams of data that he spent so much labor assembling. One might still find these summaries on other sites like this one where other people preserved them despite Glenn himself apparently not maintaining his presence in such forums anymore.

As I recall years ago when he was still active (in an ASA forum I think) I remember him being extremely impatient with anybody who would not take the time to delve deeply into the data for themselves, and his caustic criticism (of intellectual laziness I think he would say) made him a rather intimidating interlocutor to exchange words with, especially for those who are quick to rely on 2nd or 3rd hand sources of how specialists elsewhere interpret and use the data. And that is most of us in this day and age who don’t personally have the expertise in, say, genomics to even ask the intelligent questions, much less critique interpretations of the data. So we find our Dennis Vennemas out there and happily observe from the sidelines as they break it down for us or debate with others asking and answering the questions that we would not come up with on our own, but can somewhat follow when explained to us.

So perhaps (to some) Morton might not score too highly on your #1. But then again, he may be in good company. Jesus probably wouldn’t have scored highly on civility in some of his interactions with religious leaders. Not to say that I fully endorse everything Morton stands for here --indeed I haven’t heard of what he’s doing recently and hope my memories are not perpetuating an injustice to him here. Maybe others have kept up with him?

I would not encourage seeing this exchange in a “who’s closer to Jesus” competitive light, but rather as a way of productively asking: “what should Christians pursue more: truth or relationship?” Baumgardner is obviously sincerely passionate about the dangers that he is sure people are putting themselves in. And regarding a whole lot of skeptics today, he is right. They are mockers and proudly so. But I would answer Baumgardner also with a concern that mockery does not always equate with those who have taken an untrue position. Didn’t Elijah mock and toy with the worshippers of Baal? As much as we enjoy it then the arrogant and the mockers receive their comeuppance and be proven wrong about something, it just isn’t always so. And all too often, it’s the Christians themselves who are filling those roles, making hash of potential relationships in the name of truth, and in some cases then, not even getting that right making for a double tragedy.

While it is tempting to read our modern controversy back into the Petrine passage because it seems to (and probably does) fit so well, such use of it should be taken with extreme care. What kind of mockery would Peter have been addressing? It was in regards to the imminent return of Jesus and those who were growing skeptical because of how long it was taking compared to their expectations even back then! Should we be surprised that a few skeptics haven’t multiplied in the, uh, couple of millenniums since then?

Peter’s admonition seems to me too, to cut to the heart of what science is about —a basic kind of uniformitarianism as we call it now. But to then equate all science with the “mockers” of Peter’s warnings is, of course, unwarranted as nearly everyone would agree. Things do go on, so far as we can observe, with enough faithfulness and regularity for us to benefit from the study of it all. That in and of itself is not an anti-Scriptural concept as some Psalmists would agree. The only theological (and pious) question for us to reflect on is … so where is that uniformitarian scientific wisdom abused to our Spiritual peril and where is it neglected to the Spiritual peril of yet others? Obviously Christians disagree about which side of that fence scientific evolution resides. I think we [Christians] do all agree, however, that non-scientific Evolutionism probably qualifies as a spiritual danger.


(Mazrocon) #3

Thanks for responding Mervin,

I tried my best to word the title in such a way that it didn’t reflect a black-and-white “competition” … but I didn’t know how to else to word it. Morton seemed compelled to argue from an evidentiary standpoint, while Baumgardner saw apostate written over Morton’s head. It’s hard to have a meaningful conversation, when the two seem to be talking past each other.

I think Baumgardner has the right idea that Peter was communicating about future mockers of Jesus’ Coming. But the problem is that their are many Christians that hold to a local flood (or in some cases a theological flood) and still believe that Jesus is coming back … are those people under the category of “mockers”…? It’s hard to explain my point, but although Peter is talking about the Flood and although he’s talking about Uniformitarianism, I don’t believe those two ideas are necessarily connected. Is Peter saying that people are using “Uniformitarianism” principles to REJECT a Flood? Or are they using Uniformitarianism principles to reject the idea of Jesus’ Second Coming? If you were a scientist studying say, cosmology, and how the stars and planets seem to have been receding from each other for a very long time; or say a scientist that was studying geology that seemed to demonstrate a long, long history of earth … would it not be understandable if you never heard of Jesus, and someone came to you and said that he’s coming back in the future to start a New Heaven and a New Earth … what conclusion would you come too?

I agree. We should exercise caution. Still… I’m not sure what Peter meant by being “willfully ignorant”. It doesn’t seem obvious to me that a worldwide flood occurred.

That’s what is confusing to me. A lot of YEC sites make a disclaimer that Christianity is responsible for scientific thinking — the Uniformity of Nature only makes sense under a philosophical (and I would argue under a Christian) lens. Yet they turn right around and say that natural laws aren’t trusty enough to be calculated backwards with any degree of certainty whatsoever. How do you accept Uniformity and distrust it at the same time?

-Tim


#4

Hi Tim,

To me the biggest tell is that Morton attacks the statement (“Such a statement is simply nonsense.”), while Baumgardner desperately attacks the person (“Most seem oblivious that they face a judgment before a terrible Judge who will not look upon their mockings and blasphemies lightly,” repeated references to “mockers”) and ignores the evidence.

IMO Baumgardner also is clearly ignoring the most fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ in favor of naked tribalism, while Morton is doing a far better job of following those teachings.

Indeed it does. One side is all about evidence, while the other side only pretends to be about evidence.

Yet there are plenty of Muslims and Hindus that did fine science without Christianity.


#5

Especially during the golden age of Islam. They put us to shame.


(Mazrocon) #6

Hey Joao…

Good point here. I don’t know how the rest of the conversation went (there was probably more to it)… but from what I can tell Baumgardner was making ad hominem attacks against Morton. While Morton was just saying, “Show me the evidence.” or “Give me a model that makes it possible.” etc.,

I think you misunderstand what I mean, Joao. I wasn’t saying that, to do good science, it’s a requirement to be a Christian. That’s silly. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are — you can still be a good scientist. My point is that the “scientific method” has its origins in Christianity (or more specifically monotheistic religions). While the pagan religions of the day viewed nature as basically chaotic, and only resulting to the various whims of different gods in conflict, Christianity and Judaism taught that nature had laws, and was rational.

It supported such ideas as the, the De-divination of Nature, the Relative Autonomy of Nature, the Unity of Heaven and Earth, the Comprehensibility of the World etc.,

There’s a passage in the Second Temple Period text by Jesus ben Sirach that I quite like:

“He arranged everything in an eternal order and decreed that it should be that way forever. Not one part of creation ever grows hungry; no part grows tired or stops its work. The parts do not crowd one another, and they never disobey his word.” - Sirach 16:27,28

-Tim


#7

[quote=“TimothyHicks, post:6, topic:3322”]
I think you misunderstand what I mean, Joao. I wasn’t saying that, to do good science, it’s a requirement to be a Christian. That’s silly. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are — you can still be a good scientist.[/quote]
OK, thanks for clarifying and apologies for the misunderstanding.

[quote]My point is that the “scientific method” has its origins in Christianity (or more specifically monotheistic religions).
[/quote]I don’t think there’s good evidence for that, Tim, as you’re asserting a global negative for polytheistic religions. Note that I’m not saying that some, or even a lot of, science wasn’t inspired by monotheistic religions, though.

From my perspective, I don’t see any reason why the scientific method wouldn’t have arisen independently in many cultures. At its simplest, it is just a mechanism to inhibit us from exercising our human tendency to make snap judgments–a weakness that evolutionary theory explains very well, BTW. As Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool.”


(Mervin Bitikofer) #8

I don’t think there’s good evidence for that [that the scientific method has its origins in Christianity], Tim, as you’re asserting a global negative for polytheistic religions. Note that I’m not saying that some, or even a lot of, science wasn’t inspired by monotheistic religions, though.

As you have noted, Joao, the real situation is [surprise!] much more complicated; and all simplistic assertions (like “monotheism alone birthed science”, or “monotheism has done nothing but hinder science”) have proven to be falsehoods when left unqualified. But that said, some oversimplifications may still nearer the mark (and historical evidence) than others. So I wouldn’t agree that “there is no good evidence” for Tim’s assertion. It is just a bare fact of history (make of it what you will) that the scientific method (such as is virtually worshiped today even by some here) did find its fertile soil in the context monotheistic cultures. Eastern cultures had many great firsts mathematically and scientifically. Rockets, gun powder, compasses, and many others I’m sure, which are under-recognized in western education; but they failed to really chase / build up / pass along comprehensive theoretical structures to explain these things like western nations eventually did. So yes, it was in Islamic and Christian cultures where modern scientific methods were cultivated in lasting ways. Now that is not the same as claiming that monotheism is required and was an indispensable ingredient for it all --though even here some nontrivial claim can be made about the important role of de-divinizing nature, which the Abrahamic religions did in spades. But as usual it isn’t that simple.

Jared Diamond (“Guns, Germs, and Steel” —maybe also in his book, “Collapse”) makes a lot of quite compelling observations about why western European nations took off on some of this, in ways that China did not. Among the many factors discussed, one could compare a lot of competitive national animosities driving various monarchs to accomplish things (whether colonizing new lands or taking military advantage of new invention) that led to a highly focused motivation not to let their rivals get a jump on them. Whereas the Chinese empire for much of this same formational history enjoyed the relative security of being the dominant super power of the region, removing that particular motivation from them. This alone doesn’t explain everything of course, but it does serve to show how numerous other factors almost certainly would have helped drive the history of scientific development. Various religious influences would probably share also (both positively and negatively) and even themselves probably be driven my many of these factor too.

I know you probably don’t need to be reminded of a lot of this, Joao, and this isn’t so much a response meant to argue as it is to expand on some of the needed qualifications and nuances for other readers.


(Mazrocon) #9

@Joao
@Mervin_Bitikofer

To re-clarify — I’m not arguing that monotheism is the “sole and only” reason we have the scientific method. But I think a good case can be made that it played a huge role in it … and much of what the Early Church and early Jewish writings taught reflect principles that we now take for granted.

I think a case can be made that a singular God that gave nature comprehensible laws is closer to reality than Nature being the result of one big long cosmic argument between different gods. One’s confidence in understanding nature is marred by the premise that you believe nature is chaotic … that’s my point. Some of the arguments between the Greeks and the Jews are really quite fascinating.

Aristotle argued the sun, moon and stars were made of an incorruptible divine substance known as Ether (the fifth element). This because of a discontinuity between Heaven and Earth, and a belief that the celestial objects were some form of gods. While the Jews argued (from their basic understanding of Scripture) that the sun, moon and stars were not divine — even arguing that because the celestial objects are so regular and predictable that they can’t be gods. They are just apart of nature. Instead of Ether some suggested that maybe the sun was made out of “some kind of fire similar to that on earth”.

In the days of Isaac Newton, scientists were more commonly called “Natural Philosophers”, and the people of that day, used such terminology as “God’s laws of nature”. In Today’s world we’ve adopted that same concept, but omitted the word “god”, which is a bit ironic if you ask me.

So … my goal isn’t to make a “global negative for all polytheistic religions”. As I’ve stated earlier it isn’t necessary to belong to a particular faith to do good science. But the chaotic view of the universe, which most (probably not all) polytheistic religions argued for is very different than our modern conceptions of the scientific method. Laws given to nature, promoted by monotheism, is much closer to our modern picture.

As Mervin pointed out, however, there are a lot of factors involved and so they can’t be summed in “overly simplistic assumptions”.

-Tim


(system) #10

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