[asa] Augustine and Young Earth Creationism

From: Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com>
Date: Fri Mar 02 2007 - 16:21:48 EST

Hi,

I wonder if anyone can comment on this.

I am having quite a wearying debate via email with two YEC's whom I met via
a work Christian group (on a science park .. one of them with a PhD in
molecular biology). It started when one of them wrote a long email to
everyone on the list about his recent discovery of Young Earth Creationism
and all the fascinating and amazing stuff you could find on the AiG website
(my heart sank!). Since then I've been trying to gently debate about all
the pseudo-science that he's coming up with. I've pretty much refuted just
about every argument he has thrown at me, usually by just pointing him at
the relevant post on the Index to Creationist claims at Talk Origins. [ I
did warn him that yes there are some militant atheists there but when people
do science for the most part they are just trying to be honest]. I think his
most spectacular own goal was talking about the "dinosaur blood and soft
tissue" claims of YEC's. He sent me a link to an article from the
Smithsonian magazine in which Mary Schweizer, who made the discoveries was
interviewed. It turns out that Schweizer is a devout Christian, who is
absolutely mortified at the way YEC'ers have misrepresented her work.

 He's admitted that most of the ideas he's come up with are non starters,
but still is content to believe that there are other explanations and so it
doesn't change his views. Recently, for instance one of them came out with
the amazing observation that the ages of the patriarchs post-flood follow an
exponential decay (he was really "blown away" by this - though they don't
make a particularly convincing exponential curve). The other one piped up
and said that this would fit in with the idea of accelerated radioactive
decay during the flood, and the subsequent genetic damage caused decay to
set in resulting in the decaying ages. I pointed out that not only would
such a burst of radiation kill Noah et al instantaneously, but it would also
probably vapourise the earth. But he still said it didn't change his views
and that there were probably "other explanations" for the discrepancies
(though he didn't give any).

Recently I have tried to play the Augustine card, which pretty much like
when Pim continually reminds Janice of it, has fallen on deaf ears. No
response to Augustine's warning has come. I guess we all know the relevant
quote:

It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky,
about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even
the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun
and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of
animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with
the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not
a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be
avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so
idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings,
that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how
totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind
constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was
able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of
obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the
prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation." (*The Literal
Interpretation of Genesis 1:1920*, Chapt. 19 [AD 408])

Emphasis mine as I was illustrating precisely what happened when the atheist
population in my office stumbled upon Conservapedia and were whooping with
delight on the entry of Kangaroos and how they originated in the middle east
and possibly floated on matted vegetation all the way to Australia.

However, as I say nothing has come of it. But in anticipating comebacks, I
found on the Wikipedia entry on Augustine, that Wikipedia says that
Augustine defended what would now be called Young Earth Creationism, in
"City of God", citing the following quotation:

Let us, then, omit the conjectures of men who know not what they say, when
they speak of the nature and origin of the human race. For some hold the
same opinion regarding men that they hold regarding the world itself, that
they have always been... They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious
documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though,
reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet
passed." (Augustine, Of the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many
Thousand Years to the World's
Past<http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-02/npnf1-02-18.htm#P2017_1154484>,
*The City of God*, Book 12: Chapt. 10 [AD 419]).

I can anticipate that, given that it's there for all to see on Wikipedia,
that a YEC might seize on this quote of Augustine's to point out that he was
a YEC, and I'm wondering if members of the list might speculate on how to
respond to this. My thoughts are that Augustine wasn't talking about
science, but was probably referring (by "mendacious documents") to other
chronologies of ancient civilisations, which sometimes have the reigns of
kings lasting thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of years. I
believe Augustine also wrote that Psalm 90:4 (a thousand years = a day) was
linked with Genesis "the day you eat of the fruit you shall surely die", as
a reason why Adam (and no other patriarch) reached 1000 (one day). Whether
or not this is right, it seems to me that he was talking about inaccurate
and exaggerated histories, and not about science.

I'm wondering what peoples' thoughts on this are. Was Augustine a YEC? Not
in the modern sense of the word I guess, but he did reckon the age of
mankind at least by the chronology of scripture.

I'll conclude by adding that whilst I made my comments on Conservapedia
yesterday, I do not consider Wikipedia to be at all a reliable source of
information. When I've looked up articles on things I'm expert in, I've
found more than once there to be either straight factual errors, or
extremely misleading statements. I corrected on of this (on the entry on
Kalman filters) because a quite misleading statement was made, but it was
quickly corrected by a know-it-all PhD student who wants to make himself
look clever. Conservapedia is probably right that Wikipedia has a liberal
bias (but that doesn't make it right to create a site that has an equally
strong, if not more so, Conservative bias). I was always taught that two
wrongs don't make a right. I'm wondering if Wikipedia is not being fair in
associating YEC-ism with St. Augustine.

Iain

-- 
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Received on Fri Mar 2 16:22:14 2007

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