Saturday, January 25, 2014

On the Appearance of Age; or Putting the "omph" in omphalos

I just finished reading Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson, whose short story "Utriusque Cosmi" made me a lifelong fan no matter what else he writes. The premise of Darwinia is that in 1912 Europe essentially disappears and is replaced by an alternate Europe with roughly the same coastlines, rivers, mountains, etc., but no sign of human civilization, and with plants and animals from a very different evolutionary history than our own. Wilson uses this to ask questions about one of the primary arguments young-earth advocates use in order to avoid the scientific evidence that the earth and universe are billions of years old: the claim that God created things with a false appearance of age. Wilson's main character speculates about this issue:

Certainly Europe had been remade in 1912; just as certainly, these very trees had appeared there in a night, eight years younger than he found them now. But they did not seem new-made. They generated seed (spores, more precisely, or germinae in the new taxonomy), which implied heritage, history, descent, perhaps even evolution. Cut one of these trees across the bole and you would find annular growth rings numbering far more than eight. The annular rings might be large or small, depending on seasonal temperatures and sunlight ... depending on seasons that had happened before these plants appeared on Earth.

Similarly, young earth creationists claim that God created trees with annual rings, polar ice sheets with annual layers, and coral atolls with daily band deposits for days, years, and millennia that never happened. One prominent way they do this is to suggest that when God created the stars, he also created beams of light in transit between those stars and the earth (and presumably everywhere else in the universe). Otherwise, light from stars that are more than a few thousand years away from us wouldn't have reached us yet, and so couldn't be observed.

The problem here is very much the same as with tree rings that indicate weather conditions from years that, ex hypothesi, never happened. As I wrote here, when we observe light from distant objects, we don't just observe objects, we observe events. For example, astronomers regularly observe supernovae in other galaxies, millions of light years away. Now say God created the beams of light from those galaxies in transit a few thousand years ago. In that case, the light that left those galaxies immediately upon their creation would still have a long way to go before it reaches us; what we observe is just the beam God created between these galaxies and us. So when did these supernovae take place? Are they taking place now, that is, when they are observed by us? But then in a few million years, we'll see them again when the light they produce reaches us. It seems that since the light showing a supernova taking place was created in transit, these supernovae never happened.

Now this scenario is extremely contrived or ad hoc. But that's not the problem I have with it: the problem I have is that it ascribes deception to God. God is painting scenes on the sky that never happened, he is manipulating the universe to make it appear differently than what it actually is. But the God of the Bible cannot lie. It's not merely that he does not (in that he's never had occasion to) or will not (in that he chooses not to) but he cannot. It is contrary to his nature.

In response, I've heard young earth advocates challenge this, by suggesting that this puts God in a box. God can create any way he wants to: why should we assume that it's contrary to his inscrutable will to create, say, a car that looks rusted and dilapidated? Or take a Scriptural example: God had the Hebrews wander in a seemingly random manner in order to trick Pharaoh into thinking that they were confused and could be easily defeated (Exodus 14:1-4). So God can manipulate for purposes that will often be beyond our ken.

There's two answers to this. First, it seems to me that creating something that manifestly displays properties it doesn't really have would still qualify as deception (and thus as lying). By "manifestly" I do not mean "superficial", I mean something that is not ad hoc or contrived. If you built a car but designed it to look like an old rustbucket when it actually is not, would you be trying to deceive people? Whatever reason Pharaoh had for thinking that the path the Hebrews were wandering in was random, he had a much stronger reason for thinking that God was guiding them: he had just had ten plagues visited on his nation which were explicitly revealed to be a punishment from God for his failure to let the Hebrews go. Once he let them go, they traveled in such a way to look as if they were hemmed in by the desert, but Pharaoh could not have thought that meant they could be recaptured without ignoring the much more obvious, dramatic, and explicit events that had just taken place.

Perhaps I'm wrong about this though. Perhaps creating a car that looks old when it is not would not automatically count as a lie. But here's my second point: it would count as a lie if God told us the car was a reliable and trustworthy revelation from him. And this is exactly what God says of the natural world. He tells us that nature is true revelation (which is redundant) from God, which is clear and understandable to all people in all times and places -- including times and places that did not have access to the Bible or any other form of special revelation. God never told Pharaoh that he would reveal himself through the route the Hebrews would travel after their departure from Egypt, but he did tell him to let his people go. If God created a new car that looked rusted and dilapidated and then told us that this car could be trusted to reveal the truth, he would be lying, because it wouldn't reveal the truth. And God can't lie.

In response to this, young earth proponents will often give Scriptural examples of God creating things with a false appearance of age, and then suggest that this could be true of the universe as a whole (which, incidentally, commits the fallacy of composition). Here are the three examples I've encountered:

The creation of Adam and Eve. Many argue that when God created Adam and Eve, he didn't create them as zygotes which then slowly grew to infancy, childhood, and eventually adulthood -- he created them as adults. Since they were created "full grown" they bore the appearance of an age that they didn't actually have.

Now I will not argue here about how literally we are supposed to take the story in Genesis 2, I'll grant that it's literal for the sake of argument. Nor will I enter into an extensive analysis as to whether the biblical text really commits us to the claim that God created Adam and Eve as adults. I'll grant this too. Even with this, I think it is still enormously problematic to suggest that God created Adam and Eve with a false appearance of Age.

This can be illustrated by asking whether Adam's and Eve's cells and organs had physical indicators that they had been alive for twenty (or so) years. For example, according to this scenario God presumably created Adam and Eve with adult-sized hearts. But it doesn't follow from this that these hearts bore the wear and tear of having been beating for twenty years -- he created them brand new, not with a false appearance of age. Let me reiterate that: they would have appeared adult-sized AND brand new. The claim that being created as adults means being created with an appearance of age presupposes that size and age are essentially the same thing. This is obviously false.

Second, if the fact that they were created as adults indicated a false appearance of age, then we have opened a door we definitely do not want to go through. If Adam's and Eve's bodies bore a false appearance of age, we have no grounds for denying that their minds may have as well. In other words, God may have created Adam and Eve with false memories of childhoods which never happened. And thus, there is nothing to prevent us from maintaining the same thing of our own memories. God, in other words, would be implanting false memories into our minds. I've never seen anyone suggest anything like this, and it seems so absurd, and so blatantly contrary to God's truthful character, that I doubt any Christian would seriously propose it. But it's unavoidable that this would be a possibility if we try to argue that God's creation of Adam and Eve as adults implies that he created them with a false appearance of age.

Finally, the bodies of Adam and Eve are not here for us to examine to see if they really do bear a false appearance of age. But the universe is here for us to examine. We should always try to understand the unclear in light of the clear, not the other way around. We can't employ what is, at best, a highly speculative interpretation of Scripture in order to deny the reality of the world around us.

Jesus changing water into wine. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus changed water in several jars into wine (John 2:1-11). Wine is by its very nature an aged substance. It takes time to ferment. When Jesus made wine instantaneously out of water he either radically sped up the fermentation process, or he created the wine with the appearance of having experienced the fermentation process when it had not. In either case, the wine would have borne a false appearance of age.

However, it is not evident that the molecular structure of wine by itself indicates a particular age or appearance of age. The fact that alcohol is naturally produced by fermentation does not imply that if God supernaturally changes H2O molecules into alcohol molecules, he makes them with the appearance of having been produced by fermentation. Just as the previous argument equates size with age, so this argument equates molecular structure with age, which again is obviously false.

I think some people who argue that changing the water to wine indicates an appearance of age are thinking of a wonderful passage by C.S. Lewis  in his book Miracles about Jesus' miracles of fertility. Lewis points out that the water to wine and the multiplication of bread and fish (Mark 6:30-44; 8:1-13) are doing something in a different way that God usually does through nature. Bread is multiplied in that a single seed grows into a full plant; fish are multiplied by procreation; and water is changed to wine through the growth of grapes and fermentation. "Thus, in a certain sense, He constantly turns water into wine".

Of course, it all turns on the phrase, "in a certain sense". Water, after all, doesn't ferment. The point of these miracles, Lewis argues, is that it shows that God is the God of fertility, the God of the vine, "He is the reality behind the false god Bacchus". God usually accomplishes these things through the universe he made, but he can also do it directly, "short circuit[ing] the process". To suggest that in these acts God is creating something with a false appearance of age is to completely miss the point. The miracle of changing water to wine was a miracle of transformation, not one of aging: God supernaturally changed the molecular structure of the water in the cisterns into the molecular structure of wine. In other words, God created all the elements of wine other than water and then placed them in the water. This doesn't mean that God "sped up" the natural process of fermentation any more than when someone mixes water with dehydrated wine (yes there is such a thing). Moreover, as with the bodies of Adam and Eve, the wine Jesus made from water is not present for us to examine. We simply cannot conclude, therefore, that it bore a false appearance of age.

Some may think that if we deny the possibility of God creating with a false appearance of age, we are claiming that he can't speed up natural processes. But I don't claim this. God can speed up (or slow down, or change in any way he wants) the processes of nature at his discretion. My claim is merely that, if he does, the objects acted upon would bear witness to his divine intervention. Or perhaps these critics are thinking that any proposed first state can be given a naturalistic history. Thus, it is impossible for God to not create without some appearance of age. This seems to assume that God's miracles could actually occur by natural processes given enough time, just as wine, bread, and fish can be produced by natural processes. Then, when God performs a miracle, he speeds up these natural processes. I simply disagree: while some miracles may be something that could occur naturally (perhaps the miracle then being in their timing; the parting of the Sea of Reeds might be an example), this is not the case for all of them. There are some miracles that could never occur naturally without divine intervention, so they wouldn't represent a false appearance of age. Water in a jar will never turn into wine by itself no matter how much time you gave it. Natural processes will not bring a dead man back to life with a glorified body if you wait long enough.

The budding of Aaron's staff. In Numbers 17, we are told that the Israelites were jealous of the special position God had given Moses and Aaron, so God had Moses take the staffs from the leaders of each of the twelve tribes and place them in the tent of meeting. The following morning, Aaron's staff had sprouted and budded, producing blossoms and ripe almonds. However, the miracle here was not that God "sped up" a natural process, but that he brought a dead piece of wood back to life. All of the reasons why the bodies of Adam and Eve and Jesus' transformation of the water into wine don't imply a false appearance of age also apply here. And just like the other two examples, we don't have Aaron's staff to examine to see if it really does exhibit a false age. How do we know that, upon closer examination, the bodies of Adam and Eve, the wine made from water, and Aaron's staff wouldn't give evidence that they had been supernaturally altered? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to conclude that God wouldn't cover up or conceal such remarkable examples of his power by making them appear normal when they weren't?

None of the examples above constitute examples of God creating things with a false appearance of age, and hence we have no grounds for asserting that he may have done so with the universe as a whole. We know that creation can be trusted to reveal the truth about itself, since God has gone to such lengths to tell us that it is a revelation by which he makes himself known to humanity. If this revelation weren't trustworthy, it's inexplicable why God would tell us that it is, unless God himself is a deceiver. That is not an option for the Bible-believing Christian.

(cross-posted at Agent Intellect)

Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum

47 comments:

Remington B said...

Re: Water into Wine,

I think your attempt to get around this illustration fails (I haven't looked very closely at your other examples, I just checked this one to check the "quality" of you method... and wasn't impressed).

The point is that Jesus created an appearance of age *for the wedding audience* and that goes through even if the molecular structure of wine doesn't give an appearance of age. After all, no one in the audience would even have had the conceptual categories for the molecular structure of wine.

So the YEC doesn't need to argue that the wine had to have a certain molecular structure, and this molecular structure gives an appearance of age, in order to make his argument go through.

He only needs to say that the wedding audience took this to be natural wine (as opposed to miraculous wine) and that the people in the audience understood wine to occur through a process occurring over a period of time, which did not in fact occur for the wine they were drinking.

>> The fact that alcohol is naturally produced by fermentation does not imply that if God supernaturally changes H2O molecules into alcohol molecules, he makes them with the appearance of having been produced by fermentation. Just as the previous argument equates size with age, so this argument equates molecular structure with age, which again is obviously false.

No, it simply takes what Jesus' audience deduced from the product and compares it to what it actually was. Jesus produced a product that people took for ordinary wine (that tasted particularly good--it would be ad hoc of you to suggest the audience thought "This wine is supernaturally good!" or something like that). The people in the audience knew that wine is a product of certain natural processes that occur over a period of time.

>>To suggest that in these acts God is creating something with a false appearance of age is to completely miss the point.

Granting that that's not the *point* of the passage doesn't get you any closer to getting around the point which YEC are able to draw from the passage. As John Frame has said in other context "The fact that a text of Scripture may not be *about* a thing does not entail that the text of Scripture does not give us information relevant to that thing."

>>The miracle of changing water to wine was a miracle of transformation, not one of aging

Irrelevant since the product (wine) was understood by the audience to be something which is a product of aging.

>>This doesn't mean that God "sped up" the natural process of fermentation any more than when someone mixes water with dehydrated wine (yes there is such a thing).

Irrelevant since, again, the issue is the product Jesus produced in contrast with how the product is naturall produced and in the context of the audience's understanding of that natural process.

>>Moreover, as with the bodies of Adam and Eve, the wine Jesus made from water is not present for us to examine.

Irrelevant since the question isn't *our* response to the wine but the response of the wedding audience who did have access to the wine.

Better to just admit where YEC have a point than to go through such gymnastics...

nfellows said...

Isn't "time" an extremely relative concept anyway? One really has to answer "from what reference frame" before you can really get anywhere and when the question of simultaneity gets thrown in it just starts making everything seem paradoxical.

This is just simply a very tough nut to even start cracking.

Ilíon said...

"... one of the primary arguments young-earth advocates use in order to avoid the scientific evidence that the earth and universe are billions of years old: the claim that God created things with a false appearance of age."

Do they, really? Or, do the people who want to avoid the logic of some of their criticisms of "old-earthism" simply accuse them of that?

Tor Hershman said...

Say, how 'bout that thar Ovid fellow, ain't he something?

DMW said...

Hang on, basic philosophy 202, An object cannot be true or false, it just exists. Only statements have truth.

Jim S. said...

My apologies for not responding sooner, I didn't see these comments. Let me address them in reverse order. I'll have to break it up into two separate comments, because my responses are too long to fit into one.

DMW:
We're not dealing with mere objects, we're dealing with an intentional agent bringing about an effect. The question is, if an intentional agent brings about an effect in order to trick people into drawing false conclusions about it, is that an act of dishonesty on the agent's part? I don't see how it wouldn't be. But even if I'm wrong about that, it certainly would be an act of dishonesty if the agent followed it up by saying that the effect could be trusted to reveal the truth -- which is precisely what God says about the universe.

Ilíon:
I only have my own experience to work from, and in my experience, YES, this is one of the primary arguments young-earth proponents use to avoid the scientific evidence for an old earth and universe. Often it functions as a fall-back position: they'll give a few arguments challenging the status quo, and when they're rebutted they go to the appearance of age. Again, this is just my own experience, but I don't have any reason to think my experience is idiosyncratic in this regard.

nfellows:
Well, one can certainly use different units of time, but I don't think time is a completely subjective notion. Everywhere we look in the universe, we see events (such as supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, galaxy rotations, etc.) transpiring at about the same speed. There is the relationship between velocity and time that Einstein discovered, and this does result in the behavior of the most distant objects, which are moving away from us at the highest speed, appearing slightly slower than those nearby. But, as I say, it is slight.

Jim S. said...

Remington B:
1. You suggest that the wine Jesus made from water would have appeared to the wedding guests as having a false appearance of age. But I'm not convinced that that is the correct frame of reference: it seems to me that the concepts involved refer to a hypothetical observer, one who could theoretically examine the effect in any degree of fullness he wants. It is to this hypothetical observer that the wine would or would not bear a false appearance of age, and my argument is that it would not. After all, individual observers are limited in their experience and will make all kinds of incorrect inferences. Someone who had never seen naturally dark wood before might think, upon seeing some for the first time, that it had been burned due to its dark appearance. But it doesn't follow from this that the wood bears a false appearance of having been burned just because it's dark.

2. But let's ignore this and say it does only apply to the actual audience in question. You suggest that since their only experience of wine was as an aged substance, it would have appeared aged to them. Again, I'm not convinced of this. Certainly, they would have understood how wine is produced, and could have explained it if asked. But I don't see why their response wouldn't have just been, "Hey! Cool! More wine!" without any thought as to how it's usually produced. We don't bring every possible belief about an object to bear on it every single time we encounter it. Try it: every time you see a bookshelf, imagine that you have to call to mind every conclusion you've ever drawn about how bookshelves are produced before you can recognize it as a bookshelf. That strikes me as obviously incorrect.

3. But let's ignore this too, and say that their concept of wine always, under all circumstances, brought to their minds the concept of how it's naturally produced via fermentation, and thus via a long process. It seems to me that this would have a ceteris paribus clause automatically attached to it. Ceteris paribus, "all things being equal". That is, their concept of wine would have been of a substance produced through a certain natural process, unless someone, God perhaps, stepped in and produced it supernaturally. All the laws of nature have ceteris paribus clauses attached to them like this. Natural processes will have a certain effect -- unless someone steps in and interrupts the natural processes. All things being equal, wine is produced through the natural process of fermentation -- but things are not always equal. This seems especially to be the case when we're dealing with a culture as deeply religious, and as deeply confident of the supernatural as ancient Judaism.

4. And even if we ignore this, you could only say that the wine bore a false appearance of age up until the moment that everyone at the wedding found out that Jesus had just performed a miracle. The text says that the headwaiter didn't know at first how it was produced. But would you really expect something like that to not become known to everyone at the wedding within about two minutes?

nfellows said...

Ah, but I didn't say subjective, I said relative, another thing entirely.

Ilíon said...

Are you aware that earth's magnetic field is decreasing? Do you *realize* that by the very reasoning you are using to disparage those ignert (*) YECs, the earth's declining magnetic field makes a stronger case for a Young Earth than distant starlight does for an Old Earth?

There are all sorts of assumptions -- not self-evidently true -- built into the distant starlight case; but that earth's magnetic field is decreasing is just a "brute fact" of direct measurement going back 150 years.

Extrapolating forward the measured decrease as an exponential rate, in about 1400 years, earth's magnetic field is reasonably expected to be at about half the strength it is today (extrapolatin as a straight line decrease indicates that the field will be entirely gone in 3991 AD). And, extrapolating *backward* the measured decrease as an exponential rate, indicates that 10K years ago, earth would have been a "magnetic star".

Now, I expect that you'll appeal to the hypothesis that earth's magnetic field periodically reverses as countering the above "creationist" argument -- all the while ignoring that according to that hypothesis the earth's magnetic field has reversed thousands of times during the (alleged) billions of years that living organisms have existed on this rock ... and yet there is still an atmosphere around the planet (**), still living organisms on the planet (***), and still living organisms which rely upon the magnetic field to navigate tens of thousands of miles to the *correct* locales to breed or feed.


(*) That was my father's mis-pronunciation of the word, and it seems appropriate here.

(**) among other things, the magnetic field protects the atmosphere from erosion by the solar wind

(***) among other things, the magnetic field protects living organisms from deadly radiation


MY POINT IS: if assumption-based distant starlight is such a strong case for an Old Earth, why isn't the measured decay of earth's magnetic field at least as strong a case for a Young Earth?

Why is it as difficult for Old Earthers as for YECs to just admit: we don't know how old the earth is, we don't know how long there have been living organisms on the planet, we don't know how old the human race is? The YEC insist that the first chapters of Genesis can be read only one way, and the Old Earthers make the even more ridiculous insistance that certain scientific "facts" can be interpreted only one way.

jmhenry said...

...but that earth's magnetic field is decreasing is just a "brute fact" of direct measurement going back 150 years.

There's only one problem with this: Human records of the Earth's magnetic field during the last 150 years are not the only record of the history of Earth's magnetic field. There's also paleomagnetic evidence preserved in volcanic and sedimentary rock.

You can't just take 150 years of measurement and then extrapolate from that the entire history of the Earth. It's completely arbitrary and absurd. There is no non-arbitrary reason for considering a mere 150 years of measurement, while completely ignoring much older evidence in the paleomagnetic record supporting a fluctuating magnetic field.

Now, I expect that you'll appeal to the hypothesis that earth's magnetic field periodically reverses as countering the above "creationist" argument -- all the while ignoring that according to that hypothesis the earth's magnetic field has reversed thousands of times during the (alleged) billions of years that living organisms have existed on this rock ... and yet there is still an atmosphere around the planet (**), still living organisms on the planet (***)...

This definitely shows you have no idea what you're even talking about. A gradual shift and reversal of the magnetic field would not necessarily entail catastrophe for Earth's atmosphere. As NASA explains:

They've also learned what happens during a magnetic flip. Reversals take a few thousand years to complete, and during that time--contrary to popular belief--the magnetic field does not vanish. "It just gets more complicated," says Glatzmaier. Magnetic lines of force near Earth's surface become twisted and tangled, and magnetic poles pop up in unaccustomed places. A south magnetic pole might emerge over Africa, for instance, or a north pole over Tahiti. Weird. But it's still a planetary magnetic field, and it still protects us from space radiation and solar storms.

So, the magnetic field of the Earth could have undergone many gradual shifts and reversals, and life on Earth would still be protected from the solar wind. There is overwhelming evidence in the paleomagnetic record that the Earth's magnetic field has undergone changes; and, further, life still exists on this planet after all those changes. Therefore, given this evidence, gradual shifts in the magnetic field of the Earth would not necessarily spell doom for life on Earth, and therefore does not present any of the problems you suggest.

- JM

Ilíon said...

What *is* it with 'Science!' fetishists (I'm looking at you JM), that they all seem unable to reason?

jmhenry said...

What *is* it with 'Science!' fetishists (I'm looking at you JM), that they all seem unable to reason?

Well, since arguing that a decreasing magnetic field over the last 150 years somehow supports a young earth is positively, unequivocally abysmal reasoning, you aren't exactly standing on firm ground to attack my reasoning abilities.

If your only rebuttal is to throw out insults ("Science!" fetishist), then I think we can just leave it to readers to judge who is truly irrational here.

Ilíon said...

"Well, since arguing that a decreasing magnetic field over the last 150 years somehow supports a young earth ..."

But, of course, I said nothing of the sort, your abysmal fool (*).

Again, what is it about 'Science!' fetishists that seems to compel them to be so intellectually dishonest ... seemingly coupled with having such poor reading comprehension skills.

(*) That, by the way, is a moral assertion about how Mr Henry *uses* his God-given mind.

jmhenry said...

But, of course, I said nothing of the sort, your abysmal fool

Except, you present a spectacularly absurd young earth creationist argument in order to...do what exactly? Ask a question that should, by rights, get you laughed out of the room:

if assumption-based distant starlight is such a strong case for an Old Earth, why isn't the measured decay of earth's magnetic field at least as strong a case for a Young Earth?

Because, you abysmal fool, the "measured decay" of the earth's magnetic field isn't the only record of the history of the earth's magnetic field. There's the paleomagnetic record to consider as well. That's kinda how science works: The theory must account for all the evidence, not just the convenient evidence that I cherry pick.

If you can point to similar empirical evidence that undermines what we observe as a consequence of distant starlight, requiring a new theory to account for it, then you are just comparing apples and oranges, and your question (which you described as your "point") makes you look like a colossal idiot.

You accuse the author of engaging in similar reasoning as these young earth creationists, except he's not -- unless you can point to other empirical evidence that he's selectively ignoring, like the creationists are doing with respect to the earth's magnetic field.

You can't, because the author has not done so.

All of which suggests to me that, since you keep accusing me of an inability to reason, you're engaging in a massive fit of projection.

Rather than calm, rational discussion, you resort to knee-jerk insults. Apparently, that is how you use your God-given mind.

Ilíon said...

I have limited internet connectivity ... and I will not allow my time to be wasted by intellectually dishonest persons. If I have time (and still the interest) after I have made the comments presenting the facts and/or arguments I intended, I'll then address Mr Henry's intellectual dishonesty.

Ilíon said...

Every few months, there is a new report from astronomy of finding "mature" galaxies that are "too old", that is, that they are "too mature" at "too early" a time in the universe's history.

Lo and behold, here is another report, from just two days ago: Galaxies in the early universe mature beyond their years -- "Summary: An international team of researchers has discovered the most distant examples of galaxies in the early universe that were already mature and massive. The mature galaxies were found at a record-breaking distance of 12 billion light years, seen when the universe was just 1.6 billion years old. Their existence at such an early time raises new questions about what forced them to grow up so quickly."

The question that *should* be forced is, "What is wrong with our model? Why is there such a disagreement between the model and the (interpreted) observations?"

"Fifteen years ago they were predicted not to even exist within the cosmological model favoured at the time ... The galaxies are barely detectable at visual wavelengths and are easily overlooked. But in the new near-infrared light images they are easily measured, from which it can be inferred that they already contained as many as 100 billion stars on average per galaxy."

One question that should be asked is, "Is the problem in our assumptions?"

"... Using special filters to produce images that are sensitive to narrow slices of the near-infrared spectrum, the team was able to measure accurate distances to thousands of distant galaxies at a time, providing a 3-D map of the early universe."

Then again, perhaps the "distances to [these] thousands of distant galaxies" are not actually accurate. Perhaps the distances -- ages -- are mirages of faulty assumptions.

Ilíon said...

The intellectually dishonest fool currently angling to the pope of scientism is widely quoted as having said: “The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” -- Neil deGrasse Tyson

In no sense of the word 'science' is his assertion true ... and he knows it isn't true. Further, in most senses of the word 'science' -- including in the sense he intends the assertion to be taken -- the assertion isn't even meaningful.

There is one sense of 'science' by which the assertion is at least meaningful (I can't think of any other sense), though demonstrably false. If, by 'science', one means something like "scientific statements" or "the statements generated by scientific theories", then the assertion is sensible, yet obviously false.

Consider the question: How far from earth is the Perseus Arm of the Galaxy? (I've pointed to this twice in Victor Reppert's blog, here (*) and here -- the comments at these links may be of interest to the reader as demonstrations of how Science!'' fetishists (ahem) reason)

Prior to about 2005, the "scientific truth" was that the Perseus Arm is about 13,000 light-years away. But, today, the "scientific truth" is that the Perseus Arm is about 6,198 light-years away. (With the consensus having resettled so quickly, there must not have been a great deal of egos investment in the old figure, nor the assumptions by which it was generated.)

Now, which -- if either -- of these "scientific truths" is actually true?

The answer is: no one knows, no one has any way to know.

Get this into your mind: Science doesn't deal in truth -- and anyone who says otherwise is either very ignorant, or is trying to con you. Modern science isn't about truth; it doesn't start with truth, it doesn't even start with "self-evidently true" assumptions; and it doesn't deliver truth, except by accident: any given scientific statement *may* be true, or it may be false ... and there is no scientific test, there is no means withing "science" to determine which it is.


(*) Or which our host is surely aware ... and yet he's *still* dipping his toes in scientism.

jmhenry said...

First of all: Sorry for the late reply. I work a night shift and haven't had a whole lot of time to respond, even though i keep meaning to.

Second of all: Cool article! (The one on galaxies that seemed to have formed and were mature -- only 1.6 billion years after the Big Bang.)

Heck, how about this galaxy, which apparently existed only 700 million years after the Big Bang.

Seeing things like this often suggests to me that we'll certainly need better models of galaxy formation to account for these ancient one; or, perhaps, the universe is much older than we think, maybe requiring a whole new cosmological model (I don't think most theoretical physicists are open to that prospect.)

With respect to the subject at hand, I would imagine young earth creationists would argue that these galaxies were "supernaturally created" mature in a short time, like Adam and Eve.

All of this, of course, assuming a rigidly literal interpretation of Genesis, which, in turn, assumes a conception of God who constantly needs to supernaturally mold and transform matter in a way other than how it would naturally behave. Galaxies and stars and planets and the totality of the universe don't form and evolve according to natural processes, but need to be supernaturally made and molded, like clay. So, apparently, young earth creationists believe in Plato's demiurge.

The problem I have with this reasoning, I suppose, is philosophical rather than scientific. I take it as a metaphysical presupposition that these distant "mature" galaxies formed through some natural process. We may not completely understand that process as yet (again, we probably need new models), but, in the end, it will be some natural process, operating according to physical laws that we are capable of discovering.

This does not mean that God (for the sake of argument) cannot on occasion interrupt a natural process. But this presupposes a natural process that is interrupted. Young earth creationists (I assume) would argue that these galaxies formed through no natural process whatsoever. I fundamentally disagree with that metaphysical starting point.

One will find this a threat only if one is operating on the assumption of a literal interpretation of Genesis, which (among some creationists anyway) begins with the assumption that the universe is 6000 years old and the assumption of a demiurge-like God.

If one is worried about unjustified assumptions, why not worry about those?

Anyway, moving on to the science...

The only way to measure the distance to objects like these far-away "mature" galaxies is through red shift (combined with the idea of an expanding universe). Hence the measurement of the galaxies being at "z ~ 4."

But just as the last 150 years of "measured decay" of the Earth's magnetic field is not the only record of the history of Earth magnetic field (we also need the paleomagnetic record), red shift is not the only way to measure the distance to celestial objects. (See Cosmic Distance Ladder.)

Using a different method of measuring distance seems to have been how astronomers were able to refine the distance to the Perseus Arm. Using "simple trigonometry," Mark Reid said. Nice.

Using the same array (VLBA), astronomers now think that the Local Arm of our galaxy is larger than previously thought -- as long as 16,000 light years wide (I'm guessing this article won't be of interest to young earth creationists).

That's all for now. Like I said, I don't have a whole lot of time, I don't know how frequently I can respond.

- JM

jmhenry said...

Another thing, while I have a few minutes...

Science doesn't deal in truth...

A good theory should have a high correspondence to facts (something derived from experiment or observation), and should make accurate, testable predictions.

If a theory fits these criteria, it may still be false. Another competing theory may explain those same facts just as well. If the facts (that which is derived from experiment or observation) are insufficient to resolve the competing theories, then we are left with underdetermination.

New facts must resolve this problem. Eventually, one theory will be "winnowed" away, and the other will remain. Of course, the latter theory may still be be wrong, if yet another theory explains the older facts (and new ones) just as well. But, eventually, one of those will be winnowed away well. And so on.

In this way, science could be said to approximate truth about the natural world, so long as science is true to physical facts. The germ theory of disease is true in that it corresponds to the facts -- and very well.

All of this, though, works on the presupposition of the natural world as operating according to natural regularities and naturallaws and natural causes. Young earth creationists reject natural explanations for the development of life, the Earth, distant "mature" galaxies, whatever, as a metaphysical starting point.

Science may merely approximate truth with respect to the natural world over time, as competing theories are winnowed down. But, on the young earth creationist view, true knowledge about natural world becomes impossible from the start, since any fact (derived from experiment or observation) can be explained as a supernatural intervention that gives either a false appearance of reality or a true appearance of reality, depending upon whether or not it fits with a literal interpretation of Genesis.

I'm out of time. Perhaps more later...

Duke of Earl said...

I take it as a metaphysical presupposition that these distant "mature" galaxies formed through some natural process.

And have you actually seen a galaxy form?

Claiming that an observed feature must have followed some hypothetical unobserved natural process is purely an exercise in begging the question.

All of this, of course, assuming a rigidly literal interpretation of Genesis, which, in turn, assumes a conception of God who constantly needs to supernaturally mold and transform matter in a way other than how it would naturally behave.

How would it naturally behave? Polymers necessary for life naturally break down into monomers. Energy naturally flows downhill from high potential to low (and in doing so loses useful energy in accordance with the 2nd law (and yes, the 2nd law applies in open systems as well, to head off that red herring)). It appears that natural processes work against the formation of life, the universe and everything.

As for magnetic field reversals. Dr Russell Humphreys' creation based modelling of the Earth's magnetic field suggested a period of rapid field reversals during the Flood period.

Palaeomagnetists Coe and Prevot found lava flows in Oregon that preserved a record of magnetic field changes that, based on their measurements suggested a field change of 3° a day.

So we can't appeal to some natural process of formation, because there's no scientific (subject to observation, repetition, and experimentation) process to account for said formation, and it appears that creationists have engaged with palaeomagnetic data.

In regards to the original post, is it too much to ask for the writer to simply go to a site like Creation.com and use their customized Google search engine to see if they actually believe that God created annual tree rings, ice layers, or light in transit?

I'll give you a little hint, they don't. In fact the "light created in transit" argument is on their page of, "Arguments We Think Creationists Should Not Use".

Jason

Ilíon said...

Some weeks ago at Uncommon Descent, Salvador Cordova (who is not only *gasp* a creationist, but *GASP* a YEC!!1!!) posted something about the astrologocal phenonena some call the "Fingers of God". I don't recall that I'd encountered this term before, but I think I've encountered the concept in some discussion about the possibility that quasars are not neary as distant as commonly alleged.

"Fingers of God" even has a Wikipedia entry, which, of course, implies that the phenonena aren't really a problem.

One of the results of Googling "Fingers of God" is Halton C. Arp - The Official Website: Fingers of God in an Expanding Universe

One of the results of Googling "Halton Arp" is a page a Creation.com announcing his recent death and discussing the "Fingers of God" phenonena in terms comprehensible to most persons -- "... With Geoffrey Burbidge and others, Professor Halton Arp was a thorn in the side of those who held to the standard story line of the big bang. In many papers and several books1 he promoted the idea that quasars are born from the nucleus of active galaxies—parent galaxies.

In the standard big bang model their very large redshifts are interpreted according to the Hubble Law to mean they are the most distant sources in the universe.

According to Arp’s alternative model, evidence strongly suggests that they are associated with relatively nearby active galaxies and that they have been ejected from those parent galaxies.

One extremely good example of this was reported in the Astrophysical Journal2 in 2004 where a quasar was found embedded in the galaxy NGC 7319 only 8 arc minutes from its centre. See figure 1. The arrow indicates the quasar.

This finding was presented by Margaret Burbidge at the January 2004 AAS meeting in Atlanta. The response, according to Halton Arp, was “overwhelming silence.” It was reported on the University of California, San Diego webpage (10 January 2005).3 The subtitle is “Can A ‘Distant’ Quasar Lie Within A Nearby Galaxy?”, extolling the riddle.

According to the Hubble law the galaxy NGC 7319, with a redshift of 0.022, is at a distance of about 360 million light-years. Assuming the Hubble Law holds for larger redshifts, the quasar,
with a redshift one hundred times larger, must be about thirty times farther away, according to the dominant prevailing belief. Therefore these objects could not be physically connected to each other if this was true.

However, Arp has shown1 that there is a very strong case that quasars that lie close to active galaxies, on the sky, are, in fact, physically associated with those galaxies. That is, the closeness is not just a trick of the line of sight, where the quasars are millions or billions of light-years behind the galaxy and merely happen to be almost directly behind it from our point of view. ...
"

There is a dilemma here. Either:
1) Redshift values are good proxies for distance, and therefore cosmological “structures” (celestial objects which clearly seem to be physically related to one another) are stretched out over billions of light years – and are pointing at us!
2) Redshift values are *not* good proxies for distance, and the “Finger of God” phenomena are artifacts of falsely using redshift as a proxy for distance (i.e. the “Finger of God” phenomena can be generated at any place in the universe by incorrectly using redshift as a proxy for distance) – and thus cosmologists/astronomers have no idea how large, nor how old, the universe is.

Dinesh gir said...

Female Celebrties Facebook Covers, Most Popular Fb Covers in the Industry
UniqueFbCovers.Com

Asif Ali said...


Find best Online Jobs on Facebook...
JobzCorner

Dinesh gir said...

Home Based Business Join Now without any Work
Earn 400% within a Month
Payout within 24 Hours with Perfect Money, OkPay and EgoPay
Join Now
Dollar-Inv.co

Anwar Fazil said...

Earn Money with PayPal, Now you can earn 300% profit of your investment on every week, Join Now
AllTimeProfit.com

Ahsan Afsar said...

Online Jobs of Data Entry and Copy Pasting with Jobz Corner
JobzCorner.com

Syed Kazim Ali said...

Online Business with hourly profit, Just Invest and Rest
AllTimeProfit.com

hasnain raza said...

Online Corner is the best Platform to earn money online from internet, Just Join Now and start earnings
OnlineCornerz.com

Anwar Fazil said...

All Funny and Lols Gag Photos and Videos, funny facts, funny cartoons all Funny planet on lols and Gags
LolsGag.com

hasnain raza said...

Get your website on google top 10 Results, Best Search Engine Optimization Company in Pakistan
Contact Now
Skype : Jobz.Corner
www.jobzcorner.com

Anwar Fazil said...

Most Popular Latest Hot Current Affairs on this Network, News updates, hot updates, hot news
HotCurrentAffairs.com

hasnain raza said...

Business at home...??? want to join the best business without any work, just invest and rest
www.earningsclub.com

Syed Kazim Ali said...

Online Business with hourly profit, Just Invest and Rest
AllTimeProfit.com

Asif Ali said...

Best Free Earning Website where you can earn with just playing games and view some ads, join now
PaidVerts.com

ahmedraza moon said...

Get Facebook Likes on your fb page, likes on your facebook pictures, followers on your facebook id, shares of your facebook posts, every thing is available here, visit for more details
www.jobzcorner.com

adnan khan said...

Find Best online home based jobs, data entry, copy pasting, facebook and clicking jobs
JobzCorner.com

hasnain raza said...

Online Jobs, Just Post a Comment on any blog site and earn $0.06 per Link, Just Like this post, Visit and Click on Link Relation
JobzCorner.com

Syed Kazim Ali said...

Best Business Club of Earnings, Hourly Stable Plans Like 1% Hourly for 120 Hours, Total 120% Profit within 5 Days
EarningsClub.com

Anwar Fazil said...

Get Facebook Likes on your fb page, likes on your facebook pictures, followers on your facebook id, shares of your facebook posts, every thing is available here, visit for more details
www.jobzcorner.com

hasnain raza said...

Play Games and Earn Money online from home, best add clicking website in the world
PaidVerts.com

Anwar Fazil said...

PayPal Business Website, Join Now and earn with PayPal, Just Invest As Low As $1 and Get 120% Total Profit within 5 Days.
earningsclub.com

Ahsan Afsar said...

Find best business plan from home without any work, just invest $1 and get 120% Total Profit within a week
EarningsClub.Com

Anwar Fazil said...

Best Gaming and Add Clicking Website where you can make $100 per Day, Join now
PaidVerts.com

Syed Kazim Ali said...

Earn Money on without investment, just join free add clicking websites and earn upto $10 per Day, Join Now
jobzcorner.com

Anwar Fazil said...

Earn Money Online without any investment, latest Paid to Click Site with Many types of earnings, Add Clicking, Games and Referrals.
AdsClickEarning.com

Anwar Fazil said...

Easy Earning, Playing Games, Earn Money by Just Viewed Some Ads, 10% Referral Commission with Payza, Perfect Money and EgoPay
AdsClickEarning.com

waleedgazdar said...

for best Online Jobs without any rejection, no time limit required, no investment requires, just spend few minutes and earn upto $35 daily
www.adsclickearning.com