Re: [asa] Augustine and Young Earth Creationism

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Fri Mar 02 2007 - 18:04:13 EST

Augustine does not fit the YEC mold except that he thought the world
began a few thousand years before he came on the scene. But he believed
in an instantaneous total creation that unfolded, with the several days
an explanation for the simpleminded. See his /Literal Commentary on
Genesis/, IV, 33, 53. He also argues there that all the days of Genesis
1 are the same day.

There is no question that Augustine was brilliant, but he was a creature
of his time. Someplace he argued that the antipodeans could not exist
because they would fall off.

An argument that I like involves the natural reactor at Oklo. There were
two articles in /Scientific American/, July 1976 and November 2005. Run
the half lives back to see that it would have to be about 2x10^9 years
ago that there would be enough (~3%) U-235 to produce a natural reactor
with water as the moderator.

On Fri, 2 Mar 2007 21:21:48 +0000 "Iain Strachan"
<> writes:

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 1:19–20,
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, 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

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.


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 18:12:47 2007

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