Parableman put up Christian Carnival CXXXVI yesterday and one of the posts caught my eye: Dr. Hovind and the Age of the Earth from Imago Dei. I wanted to write my thoughts on it here for a few reasons: firstly, Christianity and science are very near and dear to me, and secondly, the writer was getting a decent amount of persecution from non-Christians about the subject and I wanted to throw out my Christian perspective on the subject that (hopefully) won’t be seen as persecution but an alternate position. Also, I have written on some of this way back in my post Science vs. Religion (with the original post and comments at my old blog here), so feel free to check that out as well. I will be linking to many different sources in their post including Wikipedia. I recognize that Wikipedia is not the best source for information, but it is often easier to understand than other sources and they have links to other sources if you want additional information.
Before I start, I feel I should make this disclaimer. I am a devout Christian. I am a Bible believing Christian. I also have degrees in Physics and Astronomy. I am perfectly okay that some Christians will reject this, that is their prerogative and salvation does not depend on what we think about these things. However, I think that, as Christians, we are called to use the things that God has given us, this includes our minds and our “powers” of observation. Science is a wonderful thing and it can be used to tell us about the amazing universe that God did indeed create (just maybe not in the way that some Christians think). On with the post!
Amanda’s post starts with a look at different forms of evolution:
1. Cosmic Evolution – the origin of time, space, and matter. This is the big bang. 2. Chemical Evolution – the origin of higher elements from hydrogen. (If the Big Bang produced hydrogen and some helium, how did we get the others? 3. Stellar and planetary Evolution – the origin of stars and planets. (No one has ever seen a star form. What you see is a spot getting brighter and you assume a star is forming. It could be the dust is clearing and there’s a star behind it. No one has ever proven the formation of a single star. Yet it’s estimated that there are enough stars for every person on earth to own 2 trillion stars.) 4. Organic Evolution – the origin of life. Somehow life has to get started from non-living material. (But spontaneous generation was proven wrong 200 years ago.) 5. Macro Evolution – Changing from one kind of animal into another. (Nobody has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog. Big or small it’s still a dog. Dog, wolf, and coyote may have had a common ancestor, but they’re still the same kind of animal.) 6. Micro Evolution – Variations within kinds (big dogs and little dogs). Only this one has been observed.
I would like to take a look at each one of her statements.
“1. Cosmic Evolution – the origin of time, space, and matter. This is the big bang.” Yeah. And numerous independent studies lead in the direction of supporting the big bang. This isn’t just one group suggesting the big bang is what happened. This is numerous physicists and astronomers showing that their work supports a singularity some 13-14 billion years ago.
“2. Chemical Evolution – the origin of higher elements from hydrogen. (If the Big Bang produced hydrogen and some helium, how did we get the others?” This is “simple” nuclear physics. Happens all the time. This is called stellar nucleosynthesis. (Info links: Wikipedia, Astronomy Notes, Science Week, and there is lots more out there.) The larger scale of this would be Big Bang Nucleosynthesis. (Info links: Wikipedia, Berkeley Astro, Berkeley Cosmology, and many more.) Also check out Wikipedia’s articles on the Proton Proton chain and the CNO cycle.
“3. Stellar and planetary Evolution – the origin of stars and planets. (No one has ever seen a star form. What you see is a spot getting brighter and you assume a star is forming. It could be the dust is clearing and there’s a star behind it. No one has ever proven the formation of a single star. Yet it’s estimated that there are enough stars for every person on earth to own 2 trillion stars.)” This is also a very well evidenced science. There are numerous places where star birth can be seen, check out The Eagle Nebula (and Proplyds on Wikipedia). I am not really sure what the number of stars has to do with anything, but yes, there are lots of them. Our own Milky Way Galaxy has somewhere between 200 and 400 billion stars in it. Even looking at a TINY sliver of space thousands and thousands of galaxies can be seen. The number of stars in our own galaxy and the number of galaxies in the universe suggests that there are easily 2 trillion stars for each person (some 70 sextillion are suggested).
“4. Organic Evolution – the origin of life. Somehow life has to get started from non-living material. (But spontaneous generation was proven wrong 200 years ago.)” I am no biologist and have not studied this extensively. It seems to me that evolutionists have yet to suggest how life actually started. What supposedly caused amino acids to combine for form proteins and then eventually form DNA? I understand that there is a chemical process there, but what makes something go from inert to life? How did life actually start?
“5. Macro Evolution – Changing from one kind of animal into another. (Nobody has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog. Big or small it’s still a dog. Dog, wolf, and coyote may have had a common ancestor, but they’re still the same kind of animal.)” While simplistic, I tend to agree with Amanda here. Macro Evolutionary theory seems to be lacking in support. I think that any honest evolutionist would admit that this is just a working theory and that it has a long way to go.
“6. Micro Evolution – Variations within kinds (big dogs and little dogs). Only this one has been observed.” Yes this has been seen. But it is not the only one that has been observed. #4 and #5 are the ones that lack scientific support.
Amanda goes on to say: “There are two options: 1. Somebody made the world (In the beginning God…) 2. The world made itself.” Okay, that is fine. But I am not sure why believing in the Big Bang automatically puts me as a #2 believer. That doesn’t follow.
Then: “So…we all came from a dot and the dot came from nothing. This is what they teach in schools. All of the dirt in the universe was in the little dot and it started spinning faster and faster until one day it exploded. The pieces became galaxies and stars.” There was nothing, then God created the universe: how is this different from “we all came from a dot and the dot came from nothing”?
“I believe that 6000 years ago God created everything” – but on what basis do you ignore scientific evidence? “I believe In the beginning God… (Gen. 1:1) You believe In the beginning dirt…” No, I believe that In the Beginning God… and God created dirt.
So where did the laws come from? Gravity, centrifugal force, intertia, etc. Where did the energy come from? It takes energy to make something move. And what about the conservation of angular momentum? That means that if a spinning object breaks apart in a frictionless environment (like the big bang) the pieces that fly off are going to spin in the same direction as the original object because the outside is moving faster than the inside. If the universe began as a spinning dot, shouldn’t everything be spinning the same way? Venus and Uranus spin in different directions than the other planets. 8 of the 91 known moons are spinning backwards. Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune have moons orbiting in both directions. Some galaxies spin backwards.
Firstly, I am not sure why she thinks that the Big Bang would be frictionless, it wasn’t. If nothing had interacted with anything, then yes, everything would be rotating the exact same way. But that is not that case at all. Everything interacts with everything else. Gravity is an extremely small force, but will still have a huge impact. Microscopic variations in the smooth early universe caused clumping to occur. Clumping of matter eventually caused it to coalesce into larger bodies. As the continued to occur, the smooth early universe became more clumpy with voids.
“Dr. Hovind believes things are spinning backwards because God created everything and He did it on purpose to make the big bang theory look stupid.” That makes me sad. That statement just makes me think that Dr. Hovind (whom I have had no experience with) hasn’t actually studied astronomy or physics.
I am not going to comment on her mention of the 2nd law of thermodynamics because it doesn’t really make sense. Nor will I comment on her look at macro evolution, not because I agree with everything she says, but because I by and large agree with her conclusions (that macro evolution is lacking and doesn’t seem to work).
I know I am picking on this particular blogger. I do not doubt her faith or salvation, I just think she is off the mark in this belief. It seems like the rejection of science often completely stems from a literal reading of the beginning of Genesis. I cannot see any other reason to reject a 13 billion year old universe (cosmic evolution, #1). (And I don’t see any reason to reject chemical [#2], or stellar and planetary [#3] evolution.) But why is it seen that a literal reading is to be had? It seems that many Christians are perfectly willing to use a poetical reading at some times but not others. It comes down to good exegesis. We can’t blindly say one passage is literal and one is poetical. We have to find intent and purpose. Genesis was not trying to give a science lesson: six days of creation was never meant to literally be six days. Genesis is a narrative of how God brought us into being, the details of how long that took are not included because they were not relevant. I want Christians to understand that their reading of the beginning of Genesis is a particular interpretation that not all Christians need to follow. In my view, it is actually inappropriate for Christians to follow that reading. Science and the scientific method came out of Christianity and Christians’ desire to know more about the world that God gave us, why would we reject that now just because it happens to go against your particular interpretation?
In summary: Christians can and should embrace science, they are not opposing belief structures. Believe the Bible, yes, but don’t reject science out of hand. God has given us glimpses into how the universe was made and what goes on there, embrace those things as gracious gifts from God. Again, I also want to point out that salvation is not dependant on your take on this issue. I just want you to move beyond a rigid understanding of what you think the Bible says, it probably was not intended that way. Exegesis is a good thing.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.