Re: [asa] Augustine and Young Earth Creationism

From: gordon brown <gbrown@Colorado.EDU>
Date: Fri Mar 02 2007 - 16:34:17 EST

Iain,

Although Augustine may have accepted the idea that there are no gaps in
the genealogies in Genesis, he did not endorse the notion that the days of
Genesis 1 are 24 hours in length. In "City of God" he expresses the
opinion that it might be beyond the capacity of humans to understand what
was meant by days in that chapter. He cites the fact that the sun wasn't
there to use as a clock until the fourth day.

Gordon Brown
Department of Mathematics
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0395

On Fri, 2 Mar 2007, Iain Strachan wrote:

> 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
> --
> -----------
> After the game, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.
>
> - Italian Proverb
> -----------
>

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Received on Fri Mar 2 16:34:46 2007

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