Re: Mu (Was Re: CT article: Darwinists, not Christians, stonewalling the facts)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Apr 05 2005 - 19:34:36 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Glenn Morton" <>
To: "'George Murphy'" <>; "'asa'" <>
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2005 10:18 PM
Subject: RE: Mu (Was Re: CT article: Darwinists, not Christians,
stonewalling the facts)

> George wrote:
> I may have said something like this in an unguarded moment in debate
> with someone who claimed that Gen.1 ruled out evolution but usually I'm
> more careful. What 1:11 talks about is mediated creation of life -
> i.e., that God created living things by means of the matter and its
> capabilities he has brought into being. That's important & I've written
> about it over 20+ years since it's significance was pointed out to me by
> Messenger & my theology prof Duane Priebe. It opens up the possibility
> of talking theologically about evolution but this verse doesn't "teach
> evolution." <<<
> And there is today only one form of mediated creation---evolution and
> abiogenesis. What else is there even if it isn't currently believed?

    Sure, today. But Gen.1 was written ~2600 years ago & it's just wrong to
insist on shoehorning it into modern categories.

>>>>>I think it's likely that the biblical writer was picturing what
> happened on the 3d day as essentially a speeded up version of a
> phenomenon that of course he was familiar with, plants growing out of
> the ground. That's the way St. Ephrem seems to have understood this.
> So if you want to count "plants grow out of the ground" as a scientific
> observation, I'll grant this, & it's relevant to a theological
> discussion of evolution. But
> it's not an elementary description of biological evolution in anything
> like the modern sense.<<<<<
> Of course plants growing out of the ground is not mediated creation. It
> is development.

    Well, of course it is even today in one sense. If God isn't the creator
of the grain that grows in the field, why are you asking him for daily bread
in the Lord's Prayer? But the biblical writer wasn't talking just about his
own experience. He was using that experience to describe how God brought
plant life into being to begin with.

> George wrote:
> I've paid attention, while you're confusing 2 different things. OTOH
> you've proposed a scenario for human evolution in which you argue that
> the events of early Genesis could have taken place. I'm not debating
> that version of human evolution, though it conflicts in significant ways
> with what most paleoanthropologists say & I think the data on H.
> floresiensis is recent enough that some caution is needed in drawing
> large-scale conclusions about them. But I won't argue that & grant that
> you've constructed a testable scientific scenario.<<<<
> Thank you, at least that is something for the 10 years I have been here.
> :-) I remember all too well the reception I got when I tried to publish
> the Mediterranean Flood in PSCF and then the reception I got here when I
> first came. The above is quite a difference so I thank you.

OK but don't ask me for a letter of recommendation. I didn't say it was a
good scientific theory, just that it was a scientific theory. OTOH, it's
not bad if it isn't presented as history, as I said.

> George wrote:
>>>>>>But to say that the historicity of early Genesis has been verified
> - or even that there's any real likelihood of it being verified in your
> scenario -is quite another matter. E.g., as a critical part of your
> approach on p.185 of your AAA you suggest that 5.5 x 10^6 yr ago an
> ape-like creature with 48 chromosomes gave birth to a stillborn child
> with 46 chromosomes. God breathed life into the corpse and "This was
> Adam."<<<<
> Ok, the first rule is---WE CAN'T VERIFY ANY EVENT IN THE BIBLE. Now
> that that is out of the way, what we have is evidence which is
> CONSISTENT with a scriptural interpretation. That is all we can do. As
> in science, apologetics doesn't work with proofs. Logical consistency,
> cogency, coherence and non-contradiction are the only real guides we
> have to whether or not an interpretation is correct, or consistent with
> being true. We know that the YEC view is false because it is
> inconsistent, incoherent, logically contradictory etc.

Of course we can't prove that any historical event - in the Bible or
elsewhere - happened in the same way we prove a math theorem. But there are
different degrees of conviction that intelligent & honest people can have
about putative historical events. We "know" that Lincoln was shot in Ford's
Theater & we're quite sure that the tale of Washington & the cherry tree
didn't happen. It's simply perverse to suggest, e.g., that claims that
Jesus was crucified under Pilate have no more historical support than the
your speculative story of a 5.5 Myr Adam. If you wish you can go down at
midnight to the coal cellar & claim that all cats are black but include me

> I find the more conventional liberal view, which picks and chooses what
> to believe as true in Scripture (no floating ax heads) to be logically
> incoherent. If God can raise a dead man, and create a universe, what on
> earth is the problem with floating an ax head? God is powerful as long
> as he is very distant.
> George wrote:
>>>>>This is not something that has been verified by historical
> investigation, paleontology or any other science. Given the slight
> possibility of there being any fossil evidence from such an isolated
> event at that distance in the past, what likelihood is there that it
> ever will be verfified by such means?<<<<
> Well, the first thing is that we KNOW that somewhere along the line some
> ape was born with 46 chromosomes. That is a flat out fact. That ape or
> ape-man is our ancestor. That too is fact. To say it isn't verified is
> false. Now, the stillborn part of my scenario is not verified and
> never will be. It is miracle, pure and simple. But if we christians
> don't believe in any miracles (no talking snakes, donkeys, floating
> ax-heads, resurrections of Lazarus etc), then why do we think this God
> can do anything for us? Why do we think he can save us?

This is intriguingly close to the standard ID argument: Somehow our
ancestral line went from 48 to 46 chromosomes & we don't understand how that
happened so it was a miracle. But (a) we don't know that that couldn't have
happened by some natural process (& here I confess I'm no evolutionary
geneticist & it would be helpful if someone who is would weigh in) & (b)
even if it was a miracle, how do we know it was the particular miracle
you've thought up? So your claim for historicity is about 4 removes from


> George wrote:
> As I said above, this is a true statement that grass grows out of the
> ground. You say that the earth "evolved"grass only because of your
> scientific knowledge ~3000 years later. The fact that you put
> "ultimately" in parentheses is a tribute to your honesty but the
> addition calls attention to the fact that there's nothing about
> long-term evolution in the text.<<<
> But, as I have cited earlier, Nachmanides, long prior to modern science,
> didn't see it in a developmental way. He was a Rabbi in the 11th
> century.
> 'AND G-D SAID: 'LET THE EARTH PUT FORTH GRASS.' He decreed that there be
> among the products of the earth a force which grows and bears seed so
> that the species should exist forever. It is possible that the name
> 'earth' mentioned in the first verse already contains a hint that a
> force which causes things to grow should spring up from the earth, and
> it was from this force that the foundations of all vegetations according
> to their kinds emanated." Ramban(Nachmanides), Commentary on the Torah,
> Transl. by Charles B. Chavel, (New York: Shilo Publishing Co. 1971),
> p.40
> Note that he knew of seeds and their propensity to grow plants but he
> talks about a FORCE which grows seeds!

You can get even better than that. In the 4th century Gregory of Nyssa
developed a kind of evolutionary view not just of plants but of humanity,
going from a vegetative soul to an animal one to a rational one - see the
quotations in Ch.8 of my recent book. But it's one thing to observe that
Gen.1 suggested evolutionary ideas to someone centuries after it was written
and quite another to say that the writer of Genesis was expressing such

> George wrote:
> I didn't say that it has to have all the things I listed. As you say, 1
> or 2 would be nice. But they're not there.<<<
> Meditated creation rather than instantaneous magician creation is there.

That isn't science, it's theology. But I'm glad to see you accepting my
description of it.

> George wrote:
> Your ascription to me of the "It's true because it's true" argument is
> unjustified, as I've pointed out before. Take a look again at my PSCF
> article at . I
> know you don't agree with it but that's another matter. As you say
> above, "Please pay attention."<<<<
> With due respect, I think I have. You start as you say in your article:
> "The most profound understanding of life and the universe is to be found
> in the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth. To use "God" language,
> we can say: God is revealed most clearly in the cross of Christ."
> But, you have to presuppose that the events described there are true
> (and we already discussed that we can't verify it so this makes
> assumption 1.
> Then you have to assume that Judaism out of which Christianity grew, is
> also a record of the interaction between the True God and man.
> Assumption 2.
> Within your starting assumption you have already done what I think can't
> be done without ending up in the fideist position. You have assumed
> that Christianity is true, and then not risked the possibility that it
> all might be farce. Your apologetic, while nice for people who are
> willing to say that there is no chance Christianity is wrong, won't work
> for the likes of me who is willing to consider that possiblity. Indeed,
> I think most people are willing to consider that. And that means that
> apologetically we have to find grounding in reality. Most YECs
> understand this. Most OEC's don't.

Yes, that where my theological argument begins. But it is based on
historical claims about Jesus, claims that can be evaluated by historical &
literary means without making that theological assumption.

But how much better is your argument? You claim to find support for the
claim that that the God that Genesis talks about is the true God because in
the Bible he revealed some things about how the world came into being. But
where did you get the idea that a "God" is communicating anything in the
Bible? There's certainly nothing wild about some smart guy in the 6th
century BC picturing life starting by plants coming out of the ground. For
that matter, there no reason people couldn't think of the idea that some
deity made the first humans from dust - there are such creation stories in
other religions. What justifies the claim that God was communicating
anything by these stories, even if we agree that they are some remote
approximation to a modern scientific description. You've just started with
the traditional idea that the God of Israel inspired the Bible & then come
up with a couple of things that you think support that idea. But others -
atheists, those of other religions - can explain those things without your

> George wrote:
> It may be a silly argument but no sillier than your sentence that I
> quoted. There's just as much justification for insisting that a god has
> to reveal a couple of details about the structure of matter as about
> cosmology or evolution. As to your last question, of course not. See
> the article I referred to above.<<<<
> Sorry, but I don't see it. The only reference to other religions is when
> you use the term, once, nonChristians to talk about the commonalities of
> the view of God. That doesn't address the issue I am raising--Is
> Christianity the most laughable pseudo-theology ever published.

Yeah, it was a short communication (originally a paper I gave at an ASA
meeting). But I should have thought that the extension was fairly obvious.
My claim isn't just that the statement you quoted above provides a good
basis for understanding the world & our lives but that it provides the best
such basis. & of course to make that case one would have to get into
detailed discussion of other faith positions & world views.

> I will be moving to Beijing next Monday and will begin to get scarce
> here. I will try to reply to anything but I will get increasingly slow.
> My computer flies away next Thursday

Fine. I've got to take off too (though not that far - to Santa Fe for the
Ecumenical Roundtable on Science & Technology), have a couple of talks (1 to
UUs & the others to IDers!) later this month & we're on grandson watch. So
if you want to keep it brief, fine with me.


Received on Tue Apr 5 19:37:12 2005

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