October 22, 2017

Update: Ben’s Creation Class

The Creation of the Sun, Moon, & Stars, Master Bertram of Minden

By Chaplain Mike

NOTE: Not long ago, iMonk community member Ben S. solicited our advice about teaching a class on creation to a group of young people. He promised us a report, and here it is.

You guys rock!
Firstly, I’d like to say that I was overwhelmed (but not surprised) by the quantity and quality of responses. As The Singular Observer said: “I’m impressed. Day 2, 80 responses, and everything still friendly and benign – with THIS topic”. (Though, I think most of the YECs have probably been scared away).

So many, many thanks. I’d like to say I integrated all your suggestions into my 30 minutes, but you’d know I was lying. But I did read all your comments, several times.

Many thanks to Chaplain Mike to, for my 15 minutes of fame!

How’d it go?
Okaaaay, I guess.

I definitely failed to captivate their imagination, which was slightly disappointing – even though I’m well aware that this topic didn’t hit my own radar till I was well past 13.

I copied Dana’s possible outline, and used it pretty much directly, just adding that they will ultimately have to make up their own minds (for this, and also for all the other beliefs that they currently inherit from their parents). I said that if they only remembered one thing it should be “Science says how? The Bible says why?”

Mindful of Matt’s warning about “age in years minus one”, I deliberately kept things short and sweet. Unfortunately, that left the group leaders with an unexpected dead spot, especially as there were no meaty questions to deal with. At that point they took the reins and read Genesis chapter 1, asking questions as they went. (booooring). Afterwards they asked everyone in the group (adults included) to give their own ‘opinion’. Personally, this went farther than I would have liked: I didn’t really want to tell the kids my own opinion as that was not the point of my talk. As it turned out, all the (young) adults who were running the group were pretty clearly in the Old earth category, and most of the kids tagged along. Except for one or two brave ones who dared to say “I don’t know” (which is probably the most valid answer for any age group).

Ironically, directly after it was finished, I dashed to a sister church where one of the local ‘experts’ was doing a talk on the same subject for adults. I was mildly surprised to discover that he appeared to be YEC (a non-negative reply to “does the speed of light have to change?”, which is my litmus question).

Backstory
As I hinted in one of my comments, Werner was the only one to actually say “I assume you are American”.

Actually I’m not American, and I don’t live in America. I live in Switzerland (I’m not Swiss either). That doesn’t make any of your comments less valid or useful. But the subject isn’t so emotionally charged here. In fact, I struggle to think of any topic that is as emotionally charged (gay marriage or adoption, maybe?).

For example, as I said, I heard a YEC in a sister church on Friday. Before Christmas, in another sister church, 20 miles away, I went to a different series of talks. There they were explaining computer simulations of human migration based on mutations of DNA, and wondering whether Adam and Eve might not have been the first Homo Sapiens Sapiens…

The Preparation for Adolescence course that my talks were part of is called “Tilt”: it was developed by an offshoot of the French-speaking version of YWAM here. The evening I was there, they first went to the local store with a couple of dollars each and had to buy themselves a picnic, which they then ate together. After that it was my talk. Then afterwards someone else gave a general talk about handling money, with reference back to their trip to the store. The other evenings have a similar format: aiming to have a different adult talking each time (i.e. not just pastors). If anyone’s interested, drop me a line via Chaplain Mike and I’ll try and provide more details.

My own take on the debate
To be honest, I don’t know, and I’m not sure that anyone does: how many astrophysical, paleontological, anthropological, biological, archaeological, philosophical, theological, historical, linguistic, quantum mechanical, cosmological experts do you know?! Wherever anyone stands on this subject, they are necessarily taking some things ‘by faith’ – trusting someone who is more expert than them in whatever domain.

Which doesn’t mean that everyone’s right or nobody’s wrong, just that humility is appropriate. And it’s something that I’ve often found sorely lacking on both sides: I’ve often been disgusted by the sophistry and mudslinging of creationists.

I personally believe – at this point in time – that science and a literal 24-hour-day reading of Genesis 1 cannot be reconciled.

It is not totally irrational to say that God did create the universe in 6 days, and that he only ‘turned science on’ when he’d finished. Some people will say that this is tantamount to Last Thursdayism (I really love that expression!), but that’s only true from a scientific point of view: the Bible tells us that God created the world ‘some time’ ago, whereas it doesn’t say anything about last Thursday. However, maintaining such a position does effectively render any scientific discourse about creation completely void; so logically, creationists who hold to that should simply refrain from entering the debate.

(Thinks: if you were a character in a stop-frame movie, would you be able to create an experiment to prove it?)

So it’s old earth for me. Beyond that, I really don’t know. I have an engineering background, so the idea that integrating minute and random changes over an impossibly long time could yield ‘unbelievable’ outcomes is a bit of a stretch for me. Similarly, fancy math that proves that something could spring into existence out of random fluctuations of nothing impresses me about as much as Anselm’s ontological argument .

Too long, didn’t read?
God did something; it looks old; and now we’re here. Can we talk about something else now please?

Comments

  1. “God did something; it looks old; and now we’re here. Can we talk about something else now please?”

    I hear you brother.

  2. The fancy math is what everybody should be paying attention to. If God left one thing perfect in the world after we screwed it up, it’s mathematics.

  3. Well, I think the outcome is reasonable, given the fact that this was not a Anglo-Evangelical crowd (I say Anglo, as one would have similar experiences, of varying degree, in the US, Canada,SA, Australia etc. – and I have lived in at least 2 of those places).

    As to your comment about “experts”, my own approach is to examine my own field of expertise (Geology), and then widen the cicle and try an intelligently read and connect the findings of other disciplines. Thus one discovers that there is a marked consistency and agreement.

    As to your feelings about “fancy math that proves that something could spring into existence out of random fluctuations of nothing”, I’d have to respond with once one looks at the evidence, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” – A. Conan Doyle. 🙂

    But all in all, well done.

  4. Sounds like you may have done fine

  5. Dana Ames says:

    Wow, I’m flattered/pleased/humbled. Yes, let’s talk about something else now 🙂

    Dana

  6. Since creation / evolution failed to generate enough controversy, perhaps your next lecture should be on banking privacy! Or the Swiss civil war…

    On a technical note, you write that ‘a non-negative reply to “does the speed of light have to change?”’ is your “litmus question” to determine whether one is a YEC’er ( a term which I have never heard before this site, incidentally–which itself must be a litmus test of some kind!) As a purely scientific matter, I was under the impression that the speed of light is, in fact, variable. Is this wrong? (I can’t do the physics–all I know is what other people tell me.)

    • @Werner,

      Actually, there are some VSL (variable speed of light) theories out there in cosmology, however they are NOT intended to lend support to YEC. Rather, in the literature there are several puzzles regarding how the early universe formed–namely homogeneity, the cosmological constant, inflation, flatness, and others (I am less than a novice regarding these matters)–assuming on the Big Bang. Put simply, the math doesn’t always add up. All of these theories assume a very old universe, and the problems stem from the overarching, Einsteinian assumption that the speed of light (c) is constant. VSL theories take the math and allow c to vary and see what happens.

      It’s all very geeky stuff.

      /way off topic

    • Werner, I’m not much of a physicist either. From what I understand, the speed of light is variable – for example, it is different in a vacuum to not in a vacuum. But that is not the same as saying that it started out much much faster and then slowed down.

      But that’s not the main thrust of my comment. Have you ever heard a young earth creationist [see, I can spell it out :)] say “evolutionists need the earth to be old”? Well, the speed of light slowing down is a case of creationists needing the earth to be young, and fiddling the speed of light to suit.

      • WebMonk says:

        The whole speed of light slowing down issue was a fraud (or to be REALLY kind, a “purposeful misrepresentation”) carried out by a Young Earth Creationist by the name of Barry Setterfield (I think). It gained a bunch of following twenty years ago in the YEC circles, and it tends to still be followed today in the “less reputable” branches of the YEC culture.

        All the major YEC organizations have long since denounced it as a mistake or an out-and-out fraud.

  7. Thanks for the report. I would say that my position is that I don’t know either and I have better things to do than argue about this!

  8. The implication is that” IF God created…”…then He created me.

    If He created me, then I am accountable to Him.

  9. Good post! Science won’t let me believe in a young earth, but my faith won’t let me believe all this “just happened”!

    • this is another quote of the year….. ding ding ding…Ben S is an award winner….

  10. Brendan H says:

    “Similarly, fancy math that proves that something could spring into existence out of random fluctuations of nothing impresses me about as much as Anselm’s ontological argument .”

    The fact that it fails to impress you has little bearing on whether or not its true.

    • That is true, of course.

      What I mean is that contrary to Conan Doyle, cited by The Singular Observer’s above (“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”), I’d be more inclined to trust my common sense when it’s up against ‘pure logic’ with weird conclusions.

      • WebMonk says:

        Tell that to Einstein’s Relativity. Time and Space do all sorts of phenomenally bizarre things that are completely outside anyone’s “common sense”. The same thing is true of quantum mechanics.

        When looking at the exact same events, A and B, A and B can be simultaneous, B can happen before A, and A can happen before B, all depending on how fast observer and events are moving in relation to each other. You can fit a 40 foot ladder into a 15 foot shed, again all depending on the relative velocities. Things can instantly disappear from one location and reappear in a different location without passing through the space in between.

        These are all things the math and logic said should happen, and when we were finally able to develop experiments which could test those things, we see that they actually do happen.

        “Common sense” doesn’t do you much good when you start getting into the really fine details of the universe. Our common sense is based on the macroscopic and slow world and doesn’t work very well when it is taken outside what it is based upon.

        BUT! Don’t take it as much of a reflection on your original statement, because “the math” doesn’t actually say that something truly appears from nothing. There needs to be an already existing field. You can get rid of the space and the time, but “the math” still requires there to be a field existing.

        That level of math is WAY beyond a bachelors in astronomy, so I can’t say that on my own knowledge, but I have gotten that from multiple professors who can handle that math.

        News stories and popular books, though, tend to gloss over tiny little details like that. 🙂

        • (Sorry, I forgot to come back and read for follow-up. )

          Yup, “fluctuations of nothing” also founders on the reefs of my common sense.

          You’re right about relativity of course, and I thought of that even as I submitted my last comment. But at least it gave rise to experiments for parts of the theory that tended to validated the whole. I’m not sure that that is true yet of the “something from a field of ‘nothing'” theories. Though maybe the LHC will come up with something in the near future.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I didn’t know you were posting from Switzerland. My advice to “Skip town; there’s no way you’re going to NOT get somebody mad at you” was from the POV of an American who’s seen the Creation-vs-Evolution Jihad close up.

    • HUG, yeah, I know you didn’t know.

      I’m almost sorry for not saying it up front, but I think that as this is a mostly-US site, the answers were probably more useful “in general” as they were, than if they’d been tailored for my exact situation. And it certainly gave me insight into the otherwise anecdotal virulence of the debate ‘over there’.

  12. One more Mike says:

    At least you’re not holed up in the iMonk secret bunker. Guess Switzerland is neutral even in the creation wars.

  13. David L says:

    Switzerland.

    My comments about buzz saws and such don’t apply there. As far as I know.

    Would you like to stop by over here (NC, USA) and do the same thing? 🙂

    • Tell you what, set up a satellite link, and I’ll do it from here – at a safe distance 🙂

  14. First I’ve heard of the varible speed of light theory… The question in my mind is the issue of time being relative and not absolute. How do those on each side of the young creation vs old creation fit in the issue of time being relative and not absoulute? My preliminary thought is the relativity of time means that all bets are off on both sides of the old vs young creation issue…

    • The YEC people I’ve dealt with who understand things like this more than parroting what others say, basically say that the physical constants of the universe must have changed during the first 3 days of Gen 1.

      • And I think that sits awkwardly with the parallel “proof of creation” that all the physical constants (distance from the sun, mass of the earth, mineral composition etc. etc.) are so finely tuned.

  15. Ben,

    I’m glad you survived in one piece even if you weren’t as pleased as you would like to be. If I might make a suggestion to a future talk. I’m a Montessori Guide and one of the “Great Lessons” that I give is designed to grab the imagination and it might be helpful. Here is a link to one of the original versions: http://www.moteaco.com/albums/greatlessons/story1.html The idea of the “cosmic” nature of the story is powerful especially when people are placed in their role in the story. (http://eavice.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/stellar-nucleosynthesis-and-lower-el-kids/)