Class Warfare Blog

November 24, 2018

Was the Universe Created Recently?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:52 pm
Tags: , , ,

There is a long standing disagreement between scientists and Christian literalists over the age of the Universe. Scientists say that the universe is some 13.8 billion years old while “Young Earth” Christian literalists, who take the Bible as being literally true, claim that it is roughly 6000 years old. (According to one Biblical accountant, the Earth and I share a birthday, but it is 6000 years older than I.)

So, the aspect of this debate I wish to address now is: is the Biblical “creation” event of the entire universe?

A close reading of the book of Genesis does not claim that the universe was created as described. What is described is that the “earth and heavens” were created in that story. In a later verse there is a reference to “the heavens, earth, and the seas” being created then. In order to have old Yahweh create the entire shebang in his act of creation, that is the entire universe, one has to interpret the term “the heavens” to be “the universe outside of the Earth.” Is such an interpretation possible or even reasonable?

Well, if you look at the description of “the heavens” elsewhere in the Bible, there are details as to its composition: there is a firmament, a great deal of water, fixed points of light in the firmament, and seven (count’em seven!) heavens. That is what is claimed for “The Creation™” but not the entire universe.

It has not been even 100 years since galaxies were discovered. (The anniversary of that discovery was yesterday in 1924, I believe. Public announcement came about a month later.) So, if the creation story was to include all of the hundreds of billions of other galaxies, it should have said so (an all-knowing god would know, no?). Actually, the creation stories all over the Middle East, in all of the religions came up with the same characteristics for the rest of the universe, that being what was believed to be true by the philosophers of the time (the Iron Age).

So, Genesis claims that the Earth and the atmosphere, and the seas were all that were created in The Creation™ (along with maybe the Sun and Moon) and that seems more sensible.

So, the actual debate is over the age of the Earth, not the universe. Scientists claim the Earth is 4.543 billion years old while “Young Earth” Christian literalists, who take the Bible as being literally true, claim that it is roughly 6000 years old.

Now, some apologists start their defense of their Young Earth position with “the Bible is not a science textbook” which is a red herring argument. The Bible makes claims about physical reality and it is the Biblical literalists that claim it is true in all aspects. So, it is irrelevant what classification one places the Bible into, it is the claim of inerrancy that is being discussed. The problem here is that the Christians in the debate don’t clarify what slice of the Christian pie they belong to. There are many Old Earth Creationists, and there are compatiblists (Science and Christianity are both right, study it and you will see.), and many, many Christians of other stripes. Then there is the human tendency we all have to support our position in inconsistent ways. There are those who claim the science in the Bible is not inerrant, but the history is. (None seem to be able to indicate where that fact is detailed in scripture.) This is because when it comes to the Bible, people feel free to make stuff up. Since there is no arbiter of what is right and wrong, as there is in science, any old body’s position seems valid enough.

14 Comments »

  1. literal interpretations as the sole way of understanding spiritual literature came into being about 2 or 3 centuries ago.

    The Christian “fathers’ regularly spoke of at least 3 ways of understanding spiritual writings, literal, allegorical and symbolic or mystical. There’s no fudging here; almost all physical descriptions were understood to obviously be allegorical and symbolic. There were many in the early church who had absolutely no interest in whether “Jesus” even literally existed.

    Remember, all of our modern “religions” are Eastern. If you look at the way writings are understood intuitively in traditions like the Japanese Zen or Chinese Chan traditions, it makes perfect sense to understand words in an intuitive way.

    in fact, materialistic scientists are also doing nothing but presenting us with allegory – the fact that they take their sensory observations and abstract concepts like “laws of nature” literally means that in their own way, they are as fundamentalist – or fundamaterialist – as Pat Robertson.

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    Comment by donsalmon — November 24, 2018 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

    • I can’t agree with your last statement and the first isn’t relevant. The literalists are unwilling to see scripture that way.

      Scientists are not creating allegory as they have nature as the final decider. Whimsical interpretations (canals on Mars, the Moon is made of green cheese, etc.) do not stand up to scrutiny. So, while to a casual observer, science can look somewhat like the Allegory of the Cave of Plato, it is not, because scientists can actually go into the cave and do experiments with nature being the decider.

      On Sat, Nov 24, 2018 at 1:51 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 24, 2018 @ 2:04 pm | Reply

      • 1: literalists – it’s relevant if the percentage of religious people the world over who are not literalists is far greater than the percentage of scientists who are literalists.

        2: I don’t imagine, from your response, you’ve spent much if any time contemplating the definition of phsyicalism, which – whether it’s called materialism or methodological naturalism (a ploy like intelligent design to cover up one’s ltieralist beliefs) you’re not going to be interested in challenging your faith based, literalist belief system.

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        Comment by donsalmon — November 24, 2018 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

        • You needn’t explain. I understood even with the mis-spelling. You think I have faith in nature and that my faith and yours are akin. Nope. I do not agree. I am free to challenge nature to my hearts content. If I make nonsense, everyone will ignore me. If I describe nature fairly and usefully, I will achieve some credibility. My belief is not a religious belief and it does not come out of a book. I believe in scientists egos, don’t you see. Any one of them would throw their grandmother under a bus to prove any of the fellow wrong. That’s what i believe. So, anything that survives that onslaught and passes natures tests is worth believing in and I do, about as much as I believe the sun will come up tomorrow. Just because it has every day of my life doesn’t mean it will again, but the reasons claimed as to why it does make sense and pass the test … every dawn.

          On Sat, Nov 24, 2018 at 2:26 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Comment by Steve Ruis — November 24, 2018 @ 10:01 pm | Reply

  2. and no, I’m not going to spend even a second of time trying to explain physicalism or defend my critique of it. i’ve learned from 20 years of attempting this on the net that, while it’s quite possible in person, it’s quite literally (pun intended) impossible on the net unless someone demonstrates some initiative.

    So if you’re interested, show me by doing some first class investigation before asking any questions. or study Max Planck’s writings carefully and get back to me.

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    Comment by donsalmon — November 24, 2018 @ 2:28 pm | Reply

    • I have read some of professor Planck’s writings in the original German. I was confused by quantum mechanics in the 1960’s and still am, but it is fascinating. And your point is? Maybe that observations cause collapse of super positioned waveforms? I think your interpretation is lacking in sophistication if so. They collapse even if a machine is making the observation, so there is no cause and effect involving human consciousness.

      On Sat, Nov 24, 2018 at 2:28 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 24, 2018 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

  3. Flat earth cosmogony aside (the word for ball is Dur, Kadur is the word for sphere, the word used in the creation narrative is khûg, meaning circle… a 2D object) what would have been terrifyingly impressive is if the story said something like: spheres within spheres circling spheres, circling spheres, circling spheres. Now that would amount to something truly spectacular. Alas…

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by john zande — November 24, 2018 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

  4. My understanding of James Ussher’s 1654 figure of 4004 BC for the moment of ‘creation’ was that his calculated timing was also disputed by fellow theologians at the time. I find all this fascinating because of what it tells us about the nature of thought at the time, and the evolution of that thought. I think it’s telling that Ussher’s thinking came at a time of significant religious upheaval across Britain, notably England, and in context of the Thirty Years (sectarian) war in Europe. It was also a period when the first steps were being taken to establish a scientific basis for everything, which didn’t take long to be at odds with Ussher’s figures. Yet even in the nineteenth century, when it was becoming clear to the science community that the Earth was far older than Ussher thought and the events described in the bible were not literally true, ‘antediluvian’ – as in ‘before the biblical flood’ – was still being used as a synonym for ‘ancient’. There is a dimension here that betrays a complex evolution of thought, as a social phenomenon.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Matthew Wright — November 24, 2018 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

    • Wikipedia lists several dozen of such estimates alongside Ussher’s if I remember correctly, only two of all of them agreed as to the age. All the rest differed from one another.

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 24, 2018 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

  5. At every turn science beats up on creationism with its persnickety facts. Everything we know about the universe today slam dunks all religious claims of origin into the trash can.

    Age of the earth 4.5 billion years. Age of the sun 4.6 billion years. Age of our galaxy 13 billion years or so. Age of the universe, close to 14 billion years. If you can see any way to shoehorn the existence of everything into a mere 6000 years, you are drinking the kool aid. ALL of their claims are irrevelant. Meaningless drivel in the face of the facts.

    Let’s have a big hand for the facts. Anything less than a standing O is unsatisfactory.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by shelldigger — November 24, 2018 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

  6. Old Ussher and his “age of the earth” just proves what old Joseph Campbell said about myths. He said on a PBS episode of his life long studies of myths across all cultures that when we take myth as fact, true history, or real/actual science, we destroy the myth. Allegory? Maybe, though I recall him saying myth as metaphor. I have a few books he wrote and re-read “The Heroes’ Journey” earlier this year, for about the tenth time since I first became aware of it.

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    Comment by Walter Kronkat — November 25, 2018 @ 2:18 am | Reply

    • I think one of us may be superfluous! I, too, am a fan of JC (Joseph Campbell). I have his PBS videos, and most if not all of his books and have read “The Hero’s Journey” more than once.

      I think we all have a soft spot for special teachers who happen to gently help us make sense of the world around us.

      On Sun, Nov 25, 2018 at 2:18 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 25, 2018 @ 8:26 am | Reply

  7. Not only the Universe was created recently, but there’s also a “Made in China” stamp on the bottom of it.

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    Comment by List of X — November 25, 2018 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

    • LOL! Soon to be branded “Trump” in gold letters, I presume.

      On Sun, Nov 25, 2018 at 8:08 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 25, 2018 @ 9:25 pm | Reply


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