"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Age of Earth and Evolution

I read an article about the age of the earth on a site called "rapure ready" (don't ask) It was interesting. There are some great points I had never heard like the lake in Japan with 45,000 layers of yearly sediment. 2 things that I wish he would have addressed though. And I think these concerns touch on a certain cavalierness I have noticed among some Catholics to "swallow" whatever modern science throws at us and claim that the Bible is not to be interpreted litterally so therefore anything goes. Anything does not go, and these issues of the age of the earth and geocentrism do matter in how we view our faith. If evolution is proven beyond doubt, my faith will not be shaken, my reading of Genesis chapter 1 will need to change somewhat though. But that does not mean I will sit by and quietly nod my head at scientists like Steven J. Gould who posit simply ridiculous theories like punctuated equilibrium to prop up evolution. As christians, we have nothing to fear from science. But people like Gould filter their science through philosophical assumptions that they hold as dogma. Gould sees no transitional forms in the fosil record and makes a new theory to fit with his philosophy about the universe and its origins from chance and time. This is bad science and he should be called out by christians for it. If he turns out to be right, it is still bad science, because the philosophical assumptions behind it were bad. On to the article: 1. In the article, Todd Strandberg said: "The scriptural references to historical events are extremely brief. It would only take one unknown factor to explain that there may have been scores of millennial ages between the time of Adam and the present." To this I answer: No, there could not have been scores (a score is 25 I think) of millenia since Adam. Before him, perhaps, but not after. There is a record of geneologies in Genesis that are presented as solid historical fact and they allow for perhaps a couple dozen millenia if things are really really stretched. 6000yrs if taken at face value like Usher did. These geneologies are repeated in the New Testament, they have specific ages of the men, and there is zero reason to think they are "historical epic" (like Genesis ch. 1) style literature where time (24 hour days) is not nessesarily to be read literally. In fact, I will claim that their point is to root the salvation narrative in real human history by pointing to real men with real lifespans. These geneologies must be accepted as literal unless proven otherwise beyond any reasonable doubt. (ref: geneologies in Gen. 5 and Gen. 11) 2. Death before Adam. This is very important. If there are animals dying before Adam, this would make no sense theologically. If evolution is true, then the implication is there were humans (or an ape man who was 99.9% human) before Adam who died. Why would they die? Sin had not occured yet. This is a huge problem for theistic evolutionists. Animals and people being created with death as part of their nature is impossible. In my opinion, as Catholics, (and Christians in general) we need to have an attitude as follows: Our faith is not going to be shaken if evolution is proved or the earth is shown to be 999.67 trillon years old. But for goodness sake people, lets not jetisson our traditional beliefs on these issues at the first sign of some godless scientist with godless philosophical assumptions shows us his data and interprets that data for us. Lets have a bit of scepticism at these modern philosophers who see science as their religion, and themselves as it's interpretive magisterium.


  1. Amen. Thank you for this, David.

    I was starting to think I was the only Catholic not buying it.

    I have yet to hear a genuinely good argument for death entering the world prior to the Fall.

  2. I think Catholics are a little behind the curve on this one. They are too worried about what modern "scientists" might think if they reject the latest goofball theories. What we need to realize though is we don't need to listen to people for whom "science" is their religion. There are problems on both sides of the issue, (things like the blood that was just found in a TRex bone)

  3. I have a degree in Biology, and "buy it" (as you'll find virtually everyone with a scientific education does - are they "drinking the kool-aid", or is there just overwhelming evidence for it?). I don't understand how anyone can consider manifest facts about zoology and ecology for two seconds and believe that death is not an intrinsic part of nature itself. You might find this interesting: http://www.upsaid.com/micahnewman/aig.html

    Overlook for the nonce that that "open letter" is primarily a reaction to the position that to be a true Christian you HAVE to be a young-earth creationist: I know that that's not what you think. Instead focus on the considerations in favor of evolution, having assumed that it's a live possibility, as you do.



  4. Also, this most excellent point that I just ran across either yesterday or today: http://www.thinveil.net/2011/02/just-as-it-would-be-counter-indicated.html

    One of many Catholic advantages is that we don't have to read the Bible as though it were itself a Catechism: it's got all kinds of culturally- and literarily-loaded stuff in it that the casual reader just will not be able to sort out, which is why it's so wrongheaded to just think you can just throw Bibles at people randomly and let them take it from there all by themselves. If the only option I had were to take seriously the first two chapters of Genesis as though they were a complete history of the universe, I would not be a Christian today.

  5. Hey micah,
    I didnt see you first comment but followed the link in your second coment and made a post about it.
    As to your first comment, Yeah, the coolaid comment fits in my view. It is a matter of presupositions I think. I mean come on dude, do you think "punctuated equilibrium" makes sense? It is obviously and admitedy (by gould himself I believe) an ad hoc theory to prop up his presuposition of evolution after finding the fossil record did not match what Darwin predicted. Dawrin himself predicted that the fosil record would have lots of transitional forms. It just doesnt. I mean not that there arent a lot of them, but there are none of them. This fact alone is a huge deal, and I dont need to be a scientist to see that it is a fact that is quite inconsistent with evolution. Erosion would never selectively and specifically just "happen" to destroy thousands of transitional forms while leaving the known species we see today. Gould's attept to explain this glaring fact in the fossil record is an obvious attept to force the facts to fit the theory. That isnt science its philosophy. As far as the "overwhelming evidence" and "manifest facts" you mention, huh? Where? Show me one.

    So seriously show me the "manifest facts". And I mean by that facts that cannot be explained by another theory, but ONLY by evolution. I am honestly willing to look at facts and accept them, (I did just convert to Catholicism based on some hard facts for me to accept after all) I am certainly willing to be swayed by facts, but what I have seen from the evolution crowd are truly goofball theorys like Gould's getting the zombie head nod from the entire scientific comunity. Also, virtually the entire scientific community would laugh you out of the room because of de fide doctrines you believe as a Catholic, (think transubstantiation, ressurection, miracles,) and this shows their commitment to a naturalistic philosophy more than a real search for truth. Why should I listen very closely to such Godless partisans? not to mention they all drink the global warming coolaid. I think it is self evident that their collective opinion is not worth that much.

  6. "I don't understand how anyone can consider manifest facts about zoology and ecology for two seconds and believe that death is not an intrinsic part of nature itself."

    Of course it is a part of "nature" (non-technical form of the word)... NOW. The creation has been cursed because of Adams sin. But it was not always so. To be truly human, as Adam and Eve were, would mean to never die. And likewise until the earth was cursed due to the sin of its caretaker, death would have been horribly out of place, if not blashemously imposible, even for whales or dinosaurs. Why would they die? It makes no sense. God proclaimed what he had made "good", and death aint good. Death is NOT natural. It is extremenly UNatural and out of place in this world.

    Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, ch. 52 says:

    "Nevertheless, if we look at the matter rightly, it will appear sufficiently probable that, divine providence having fitted each perfection to that which is to be perfected, God has united a higher to a lower nature in order that the former might dominate the latter, and, should any obstacle to this dominion arise through a defect of nature, God by a special and supernatural act of kindness would remove it. Wherefore, since the rational soul is of a higher nature than the body, we believe that it was united to the body under such conditions, that there can be nothing in the body to oppose the soul whereby the body lives.... Hence, according to the teaching of faith, we affirm that man was, from the beginning, so fashioned that as long as his reason was subject to God, not only would his lower powers serve him without hindrance; but there would be nothing in his body to lessen its subjection; since whatever was lacking in nature to bring this about God by His grace would supply."

    I want to do a study on this issue of death before the fall. So thanks for getting my blood flowing on this topic! It seems to me fairly obvious that it is impossible theologically to have death before the fall, but I could be way off. Anyway, I think at least St. Thomas agrees with me to an extent.

    Peace brother,

    -David M.

  7. Hi David,

    the link in my first comment, to the "Open Letter to Answers in Genesis," explains what I meant. In brief, why think that animal death was always part of nature? Look at a cat. A shark. A bird of prey. A spider. Each of these is a finely-honed killing machine - everything about them is completely oriented towards killing and eating other animals. Is that a work of Satan or of God? You'll have to read at least some of my "open letter" linked above, since it further explains this position.

    In re: "The Fall brought death into the world." Understandable that this would be a commitment, but considering the zoological and ecological facts I alluded to, it's not a desirable commitment to have. Where in the Bible does it say that the Fall specifically brought DEATH into the world? It doesn't. St. Paul says it brought futility, and imbalances, and disharmony of ourselves with nature (the film Koyaanisqatsi, which means "out of balance" portrays this beautifully without any words). A long history of death and evolution is only futility if you think of it from an anthropocentric point of view. Consider all the species that lived and died and went extinct. God took pleasure in the mere existence of the huge variety of all these magnificent beasts, I would think, just as He takes pleasure in those living today.

    As to the overwhelming evidence for evolution, I couldn't even begin to lecture about it in a blog comment. It's actually not even required to understand any biology: when one understands how science actually works, and what it takes for as far-reaching a theory as evolution to become accepted as "the single unifying principle in all of biology" (as said the great geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, an Orthodox), and one looks at the utterly unanimous acceptance of it by actual working scientists in fields directly relating to it, one has to maintain a conspiracy theory of absolutely outrageous proportions to think that scientists really know deep down that there's no evidence for evolution.



  8. "one has to maintain a conspiracy theory of absolutely outrageous proportions to think that scientists really know deep down..."

    For sure. No way is there a conspiracy. And I did not mean to imply there is one. That would be retarded. It would have to be explained by a common way of interpreting the facts of science. And that common way has not developed in a vacuum, but with a philosophy behind it. Cultures do develop common philosophies that are shared by the masses, that is not a conspiracy. Im no conspiricist. I did notice however you did not give even one evidence, although you stated there was so much you couldnt begin to lecture about it. Perhaps that is fair this is just a combox after all! I still need to read your article you linked. (written by you I assume?)

    I am really open to corection on this so I hope you can deliver the goods in the article. Otherwise i'm stickin with the 6000 years and no evo.

  9. Hi David,

    If you don't think it requires a conspiracy theory, then you don't fully appreciate how science as a whole works and how chomping-at-the-bit scientists are to climb all over each other and disprove each others' theories. But then, hardly anyone without a degree in the subject does, so you're hardly alone in that!

    The "philosophy" behind it is simply the way that all science works: going with the assumption that nature does things in regular ways on its own, and seeing how those ways work and how much theories about how they work can explain the empirical data. That's it. Same way we get all scientific theories. I read somewhere that Ken Ham, director of Answers in Genesis, said "We accept the same science that they do. We just interpret it differently." No, no, a thousand times no, he does not "accept the same science" that scientists do. One of the fundamental misconceptions about science itself, which science educators have identified and are at pains to correct, is that "science is just a collection of facts." My description above should put that to rest: it's meant to *explain* the facts. Consider what "creation scientists" do: having determined in advance "how things worked," they go and find things that might seem to be the least bit compatible with that theory. It's instructive about science to note that this is the *exact opposite* of how real science actually works.

    Also, about "punctuated equilibrium" and such - I'm not, and not nearly all evolutionary theorists are, wedded to that as a theory of how evolution works. Scientists disagree on how it works, but none of them deny that it happened.

    The purpose of my "open letter to AiG" is not to provide evidence for evolution, but thanks to the internet, anyone interested in learning about why virtually all scientists believe in it can easily find such information. Since you aren't wedded to young-earth creationism, I would guess that you would be receptive to that idea. Here's a good website: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/search/topics.php?topic_id=14



  10. Micah,
    First off, considerting your first paragraph in the last comment I have a feeling this might go down the road of "your not a trained scientist so you just dont get it". That's fine, and I just went through that in becoming Catholic as well. Reformed people consistently told me I was just not qualified to understand theology. The point is, if I can find some logical inconsistencies in Reformed theology, I will then either dump it or at least highly suspect it of error. This is the case with evolution. There are highly doubtful things in there that make me pause. I would say I am about 80/20 on the side of no evolution.

    As far as Ken Ham, aye-yay-yay don't go there. I read your AIG critique and largely agreed with it. Ken Ham is like Richard Dawkins, they both tie their philosophy together with their science in a biased way. Of course we all do, but if evolution is proved to my mind in the comming months/years, I will not lose a bit of faith. I think Ken Ham would have to loose faith considering his commitments to youung earth creationism. He reads scripture like a sciece book, and therefore would have to doubt his faith were evolution proved to his satisfaction. I don't relate to that. Genesis chapter 1 could mean long ages with evolution exegetically for all I know. I really "don't care" I guess. But evolution on its own merits always seems dubious to me. As if it is an ad hoc theory to explain how ex nihilo creation could not be true. If you listen to guys like dawkins and Sagan, you can see what I mean. They are just as bad as Ken Ham. They have an obvious philosophical bias. Why should I listen to their opinion of what archeopterix is when they display such a bias?

    "about "punctuated equilibrium" and such - I'm not, and not nearly all evolutionary theorists are, wedded to that as a theory of how evolution works. Scientists disagree on how it works, but none of them deny that it happened."

    Do you admit that it is an ad hoc theory though. And do you admit that it is fairly outlandish and unbelievable. Almost on the level of the "alien seed" theory of lifes origin. It is just silly. Agreed? And can you see how that looks to me? It makes me very suspicious of the philosophical motives of Gould and his ilk.

    The reason "none of them denied that it happened" to my eyes looks like just a bias. Just like Ham, it seems they cannot go agaist what they percieve as a self evident fact, namely that an orginism COULD NOT just start out as we see it (in fossil or alive) because that would imply perhaps creation or some such silly theory. Because of Ham's commitment to a particular interpretation of scripture, he is commited the disbelieving evolution because he would see that as somehow taking glory away from God perhaps.

    Anyway, I am going to read every stitch of info you gave me with as open a mind as I can, and I will get back to you in a few weeks/months. I want to get to the bottom of this. I should not need to be a scientist to do so however, and that is where I know you are dead wrong.

    Peace brother,

    David Meyer

  11. Micah,
    I am carefully going through the Berkeley article on evolution proofs now. It has been interesting. I am really *trying* hard to try to keep an open mind.

    On a separate note, I am starting to see the "no death before the fall" argument as being not very supportable from scripture or Tradition, and it seems to not matter that much if there were death before Adam. Your points about the design of carnivores is a good one. So I am willing to grant the point that death before the fall of man is quite likely. However, I do have reservations about human death before the fall, and also about the idea that other homo sapiens could be alive before and during Adam and Eve's time in "Eden".
    In your letter to AIG (which, again, I largely agree with) you said:
    "I do believe in a real Adam and Eve. They may have been specially created by God, but if they were two of a population of homo sapiens that were specially "breathed upon" by God to know and relate to Him, this does not preclude a historical Adam and a Fall."
    If that were the case, for you to conform to Church teaching (Humani Generis 37) that ALL humans after Adam come from Adam, you would have to believe either that immediately with that “breath” all other homo sapiens were destroyed, or that Adam and Eve were the last of their race. OK, that’s possible, but it start to look quite ad hoc. Like you are trying to make evolution fit Church teaching however possible.
    I strongly believe you are stepping out of bounds with your cavalier attitude about evolution and I want to gently admonish you (and Fr. Barron, and nearly all other Catholics) to submit to Church teaching on this issue. Here is the text from Humani Generis 36:

    "For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith. Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question. "

  12. Continued...

    I am coming to understand that Catholics are in disobedience to the Church on this issue because they consistently “rashly transgress the liberty of discussion” with regard to these issues by claiming things are proven. The qualifier given for permission to study is NEVER given in any discussion I have had. That qualifier says:
    “However, this [study of evolution] must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure…”
    Opposing views are laughed at, certainly not taken seriously as the Church requires here.
    I certainly do not get the impression from you (or nearly any Catholic, including Father Robert Baron) that the “greatest moderation and caution” is being used in your description of man coming from preexistent living matter. In fact, you do the opposite by treating the issue as simply a fact! You have things exactly reversed. The default position should be that the Church is ALLOWING study of evolution under an umbrella of the greatest caution and moderation which scripture demands, and that nothing can be declared as decided. This is NEVER mentioned by the Catholic evolutionists I have heard from. It should be the FIRST thing mentioned, but it is never mentioned unless the point is pressed. What Church teaching requires on this issue at the very least is that the other view be presented when this discussion comes up and that evolution NOT be presented as if it were “certain”. You must concede that point. Any Catholic institution that teaches evolution as a fact is in error according to this document.
    Anyway, I will continue to go through the article you offered that presents proof of evolution.
    Peace to you,
    -David Meyer