Harmonizing Genesis, Literally

Please note that this is a thoroughly updated essay of an earlier essay which I posted just after this site was started. Nevertheless, this essay is sufficiently different to warrant reposting.

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Harmonizing Genesis, Literally

For many years, Christians in the West have argued over the days of creation as found in the Genesis text. In opposition to the scientific claim that the world is vastly old, with an existence numbering into the billions of years, so-called Young Earth Creationists generally hold to the idea that the Earth was actually created in six literal days and is only a few thousand years old; not only do they hold to this view, but they argue against other Christians who do not. Indeed, vast quantities of time and effort have been expended in pursuit of this issue. And to many Christians, this issue is vitally important, which is why it deserves our attention. But given the friction that this matter has caused among different Christian groups, it is an issue which not only deserves our attention, but it also deserves a solution which can be reasonably accepted by all the different parties in this dispute. And that is precisely what this work aims to do. Indeed, this brief essay endeavors to take on a herculean task: in essence, it seeks to show, in a way that is both scripturally faithful and plausible, that a ‘six-day’ view of the creation in Genesis can be completely, directly, and literally harmonized with a creation that also took billions of human years to occur. In doing this, this article hopes to lay to rest the constant debate over the creation-days in Genesis.

Now, in order to understand the solution to this problem, the first critical thing to note is that in Genesis 1:1, scripture makes it clear that the Spirit of God came down to the Earth and was hovering or moving over the waters of the Earth. Furthermore, note as well that this Earth-bound but Godly perspective is introduced to the reader of Genesis before any of the creation days are even mentioned. Thus, it is quite reasonable to accept that the perspective of the Genesis text from the start is not only God’s perspective, but specifically the perspective of God very close to the waters of the Earth and hovering right over them. Additionally, in the text itself, there is no other individual mentioned there except for God, thereby providing yet another reason to believe that the Genesis text is looking at creation from the perspective of God who is hovering over the waters of the Earth. And also note that this ‘God’ perspective carries on throughout the rest of the Genesis 1 text. So this is the first point to realize.

Second, it is vital to understand that in the Genesis text specifically, the days of creation are not counted by hours or minutes or by any other human time calculation; rather, a literal and direct reading of the Genesis text shows that a day is only counted as a completed day by the fact that there was the day, then the evening, and then the morning. Thus, in the Genesis text, when read literally, the days are only “days” once there has been a cycle of day, evening, and then morning; the days are not counted by some human time calculation of 24-hours, but rather they are counted by the cyclical occurrence of day, then night, then day again. This cannot be stressed enough: the text of Genesis 1, when read literally, shows that the days of Genesis are counted through the physical transition of day-to-night-to-morning, not through human time references.

So, with all this in mind, the way to harmonize the idea of six literal days of creation, as the Genesis text describes it, with the scientific evidence that the Earth is billions of years old, is both simple and clear. Remembering that the Genesis narrative, when it locates God, locates Him specifically as moving over the Earth and therefore in direct and close proximity to it, and also remembering that the Genesis narrative is from God’s perspective, then the solution to the Genesis problem becomes the following: during creation, God simply remained moving in what was essentially “daytime” even while millions of human years passed by, and God only allowed Himself to complete the day-to-night transition cycle when He wished to do so. In this way, there would be only one literal Genesis day occurring to God, even though, in human time, millions or billions of years might have actually passed. Indeed, the fact that God, as He moved over the Earthly waters, could remain in the daylight phase for as long as He desired to do so is obvious, for He is God, and thus there is no difficulty in accepting that this is a logical possibly; furthermore, this idea is also reasonable from a scriptural perspective given that, as stated, scripture itself describes God as hovering or moving over the very surface of the Earth right at the very start of the creation account. And this is precisely the type of verse that would be needed to make the aforementioned solution both scripturally sensible and faithful, so it is very interesting that this is indeed exactly the type of verse that is found in the Genesis creation account.

Now, as an analogy to this proposed solution, note that the explanation in question mirrors the way in which even a human person can exist in just one “day” even though weeks might pass him by. After all, consider the following example: if a person lived in certain extreme northern places on the planet where the sun never rises or sets for weeks at a time, then even though weeks might pass in actual measured human time, it would still be true to say that that person only experienced one “day” if a day was being counted as a day-to-night transition rather than as a period of hours. And indeed, certain people do live in a situation where the day-to-night transition does not happen for a few weeks, and so to these people, one of their day-to-night cycles lasts weeks rather than just lasting 24 hours. So even we human beings, in our own lives, can see how one day, if defined as a day-to-night cycle, could remain as just one day even though much more than 24 hours might pass by in just that one “day”. And to extend the analogy even further, note that if a person, say, wrote a book during the weeks-long time when the sun never set, then it would be coherent and logical to say that the person created a novel in just one day, if a day was being counted as a day-to-night transition, while at the same time saying that it took that person weeks in measured human time to write his novel. Indeed, there would be no contradiction in taking both of these claims to be true.

Furthermore, and in addition to the above analogy, also note that a thought-experiment can help make it clear how the proposed solution to the Genesis day issue would work. So, for example, consider that if a person was in a hyper-fast plane that was as fast as the rotation of the Earth, and if, for the sake of argument, that plane was self-sustaining in terms of its fuel and food, then a person inside the plane could literally stay on the day-time side of the Earth for his entire life, thus living eighty-to-ninety years of human time in just one “day”, so long as that day was defined as a day-to-night transition. In fact, it can even be imagined that if the person had life-enhancing technology, and if the person could live to be a million years old, then such a person could literally have a million years of human time pass-by in just one day. At the same time, whatever the person had created in the plane over the course of a million years—perhaps beautiful paintings and music—could also be considered to have been created in just one day, so long as, once again, a “day” in that case was being measured as a day-to-night transition. And so, just as it is in this thought-experiment, so to could God have created things in just one “day” even though billions of years might have passed at the same time as the one “day” did.

Additionally, and as further support for the above solution, note that 2 Peter 3:8 advises that to God, a day is as a thousand years and, more importantly, a thousand years is also as one day. And while a number of meanings could be drawn from this scriptural passage, it is clear that the ‘thousand years’ is meant more to give the impression of a long period of time than an exact thousand years, and so the point is that this verse lends support to the aforementioned solution to the Genesis problem, for this verse shows that a day to God could be a seen as a very long time to us, and that a very long time to us could be but one day to God, which is precisely what the solution above is claiming.

Another benefit to this particular solution is that it can help resolve some other scriptural difficulties that arise in the creation account. For instance, in Genesis 2:2-3, scripture alludes to the fact that God rested on the seventh day of creation, and yet since there is no day-to-night transition listed for the seventh day, the most literal interpretation of this passage is that the seventh day is still with us and that God is still in the seventh day, for the change to night and then a new day is not mentioned there like it is for the first six days of creation. But if a day is a 24-hour period of time, then this would not be possible, as even the most ardent Young-Earth Creationist admits that centuries have passed since this last day of creation. Yet with the solution proposed in this work, no problem arises, for reconciling that passage of scripture is as simple as understanding that the Spirit of God from Genesis 1:2 is still in the “day” phase of the seventh day, but the rest of his creation—like human beings, who obviously cannot remain in the day phase indefinitely like God can—has experienced the passage of thousands of days since that time. Consequently, it can be seen that the acceptance of the aforementioned solution to the Genesis days problem also helps deal with the issue of the current day-phase of the seventh day of creation. Next, note that certain tensions between Genesis 2:4, which alludes to the fact that creation was completed in just one day, and Genesis 1 can also be resolved through the use of this proposed solution and an understanding of the Trinity. After all, given the Trinity, and given the solution presented, it would be possible for one person of the Trinity, namely the Holy Spirit, to do His work of creation in six Genesis days, whereas another person of the Trinity could complete His work of creation in one Genesis day. Indeed, since, as repeatedly stated, the Genesis days are measured by the observer’s experience of a day-to-night transition, then, both logically and scripturally, it would be possible for one person of the Trinity to create in what to Him is one day whereas the same creation process could take six days for another member of the Trinity. And so again, the proposed solution can not only plausibly and scripturally harmonize six Genesis days with billions of human years, but it can also resolve other tensions in the creation account.

Now, in terms of objections against it, note that the proposed solution is quite robust. For example, this solution to the Genesis problem can easily absorb the fact that the Hebrew word for ‘day’, namely ‘yom’, often means a period of light and/or darkness, such as is experienced by us during one day. Indeed, since this solution agrees that each creation day was only one period of light and darkness—but one period of light and darkness from God’s perspective, which could have been billions of years to human beings—then this solution is easily able to accept the claim that ‘yom’, in the case of Genesis, is best defined as just one period of light and darkness. And so the word ‘yom’ can be accepted in its most conventional understanding, and yet this solution still works just fine even in that case. Furthermore, the section of scripture in Exodus 20:8-11, which speaks of the days of creation as being literal days, is also easily accommodated by the solution proposed here so long as the ‘day’ in those scriptural verses are properly understood: namely, as one day-to-night transition. Indeed, when understood in this way, Exodus 20:8-11 offers no problem to this solution, for observe how those passages adapt once the word “day” is understood as the aforementioned transition:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six [day-to-night-to-morning transitions] you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh [day-to-night-to-morning transition] is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. … For in six [day-to-night-to-morning transitions] the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh [day-to-night-to-morning transition]. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11, ESV)

So, when understood in this way, Exodus 20:8-11 can be taken literally, and yet there is no tension between this passage and the days being a long period of time because both are still literally true. God did take six day-to-night transitions to complete creation, but those day-to-night transitions took billions of years to complete; however, since, in Exodus 20:8-11, God is speaking to a people who have no technological means of having one day-to-night transition last longer than a normal 24-hour period, and since these people do not live anywhere where the sun remains up for days or weeks at a time, then of course it would be the case that in such a situation, the six day-to-night transitions that God experienced would match six 24-hour days in actual human time for the human beings that Exodus 20:8-11 is being written for. Consequently, when understood in this way—which, as we have seen, is the proper way to understand a Genesis day—then the fact that the passage in Exodus seems to equate six human days with the six creation days used by God is not a problem at all for the old Earth view so long as the “day” is properly understood as a day-to-night-to-morning transition, which is how it literally appears in the Genesis text.

Thus we see that when the Genesis “days” are understood as they are literally described in the Genesis text, which means as the completion of an observer-relative day-to-evening-to-morning cycle, and when we understand that, in Genesis, the observer in question is a God who would not have to transition through a single one of those cycles for billions of human years if He did not wish to do so, then we can understand that it is actually easy and scripturally reasonable to harmonize six literal God-perspective Genesis creation days with billions of human years.

Finally, it is worth mentioning why God would use billions of years to create the universe and the Earth. Very briefly, Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s nature is seen and understood through His creation. But part of God’s nature is His eternality or His everlastingness. Now, a universe that was created billions of years ago—an age almost incomprehensible to us—points to an eternal or everlasting creator much more clearly, and much better, than a universe which was only created a few thousand years ago does. After all, consider that it is possible to conceive of some super alien-like entity being able to create a universe like ours that is only a few thousands of years old, but a universe that is billions of years old makes it much easier to picture only an eternal or everlasting God as being the sole possible creator of such a universe. Indeed, for given that human experience teaches us that material things only live a few hundred years at most, then if humans looked at a created cosmos which was billions of years in the making, with a creator who existed for those billions of years, then it becomes readily apparent that the only reasonable belief to have concerning that creator is that he is what all people call “God.” And so, the reason God would use billions of years to create is because doing so reflects His nature better, and it also helps to ensure that no one mistakes the true Creator for some merely advanced human-like creator, for only a thing which all people take to be God could have created the cosmos over the course of billions and billions of years.

And so, in the end, not only can we see that the Genesis text can be literally harmonized with billions of years of Earthly existence, but we can also see that there is a reason why God would use billions of years to achieve His ends. And while the solution presented here will obviously not suit everyone, and while this solution does not resolve every concern with the Genesis text, the fact is that this particular approach to the Genesis day problem is indeed a way to plausibly, faithfully, and reasonably reconcile the Genesis text with the scientific claims about the age of the Earth. And achieving even this is no small thing.

Author’s Note:  Please be aware that the solution to the Genesis problem presented in this article is, to the best of the author’s knowledge, unique; but if it is not, then that is the author’s error and all credit goes to those who saw this solution first.

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Anno Domini 2017 02 16

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

Objections to Horn Two of Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Objections to Horn Two of Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma

In a previous essay titled ‘Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma’, it was argued that the atheistic-naturalist is forced into a dilemma given that his worldview is essentially wed to the grand naturalistic version of the evolutionary narrative, which is indeed the only live option that the atheistic-naturalist can appeal to in order to explain the existence and development of all life. On the one hand, if the atheistic-naturalist denies the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then he suddenly has a worldview that has no viable explanation for the existence and apparent design of living things, as well as having a worldview that is thus based on blind faith given its lack of an explanation for biological life. On the other hand, if the atheistic-naturalist binds himself to the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then the fact that that narrative has no evidence for many of its major claims—such as, for example, abiogenesis or the emergence of consciousness—also means that the atheistic-naturalist’s worldview is based on blind faith. So whatever way that he turns, the atheistic-naturalist’s worldview is not one based on evidence, but rather it is a worldview built on a foundation of faith. And since believing things on the basis of blind faith is allegedly antithetical to the spirit of atheistic-naturalism, then this dilemma means that atheistic-naturalists should actually cease being atheistic-naturalists, for they hold a worldview which is antithetical to one of their own stated principles. And so this is a serious dilemma for the atheistic-naturalist. But, as with all arguments, some objections can be offered against them, and this one is no different, and so it is precisely those objections, or at least the ones related to the second horn of the dilemma, which this essay will address.

Now, the second horn of the dilemma notes that if the atheistic-naturalist does indeed tie himself to the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then he also encounters the problem that his worldview is based on blind faith, for the fact is that the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative has little to no evidence for many of its major claims—such as, for example, abiogenesis or the emergence of consciousness. And so, if the atheistic-naturalist embraces naturalistic evolution as the explanation for biological life—as he essentially must since it is his only live option—then he still does not escape from the charge that his worldview is one which is based on a blind faith and a lack of evidence concerning many of the most significant claims that he believes. And yet, in response to this horn of the dilemma, the atheistic-naturalist can mount two main objections.

Enough Evidence

First, the atheistic-naturalist can simply claim that, in fact, there is sufficient evidence for all of the major claims of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative. Now, in the face of such a claim, the only truly appropriate response is laughter, for anyone making this sort of a claim has, quite frankly, drank the naturalistic Kool-Aid. After all, the truth is that atheistic-naturalists, apart from largely fact-free and often contradictory speculations, actually have no explanations for such events as the origin-of-life, or the existence of consciousness, or the existence of human language and rationality. And this is not even to mention the fact that more mundane issues, such as the origin of eyes or wings or molecular machines, are given little more than a naturalistic just-so story as the explanation for their existence. Thus, it truly is the case that any atheistic-naturalist who asserts that there is evidence, let alone sufficient evidence, for many of the major claims of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, is living in a fantasy world. So this is the first point to make.

However, let us, for the sake of argument, dive into this fantasy world as well, and let us thus pretend that there is evidence, even good evidence, for many of the claims of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative. Does this fact help actually help the atheistic-naturalist? Not necessarily, and the reason for why this is so is deliciously ironic, for it is a case in which the atheistic-naturalist is hoisted up by one of his own favorite petards: namely, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Indeed, since many of the claims of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative are truly extraordinary given that they are by no means mundane or common or observed or experimentally confirmed, and since they defy many aspects of our repeated experience—after all, we have no experience of life coming from non-life naturalistically, or consciousness emerging without prior breeding by conscious people (and these are just two examples that can be provided). Furthermore, as atheistic-naturalists routinely love to stress in the case of extraordinary miracles, it would take a massive amount of directly observed evidence for them to even consider contemplating the idea that a miracle occurred, and so is it any different for a non-naturalist to ask that the same standard be met for claims which the non-naturalist considers extraordinary in nature, such as that life can come from non-life naturalistically or that consciousness can emerge from mere matter-in-motion. Thus, the point here is, is that even if the atheistic-naturalist had evidence for all the major claims inherent in the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative—which he does not—this fact, in and of itself, would be insufficient to make belief in atheistic-naturalism rational for many individuals given the atheistic-naturalist’s own endorsement of the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, for since many of atheistic-naturalism’s claims are extraordinary, and since this saying is largely subjective, then the atheistic-naturalist could never—or at least only with great difficulty—provide the extraordinary evidence necessary to make belief in his extraordinary claims rational. And so, as stated, the atheistic-naturalist is hoisted by his own petard.

Thus, the first option that the atheistic-naturalist proponent of naturalistic evolution can use to avoid this dilemma comes with its own serious difficulties and it does not negate the force of the dilemma.

Reasonable Faith

Now, the second option that the atheistic-naturalist who endorses naturalistic evolution can use against this dilemma is to essentially appeal to the so-called ‘success of naturalistic science’. Indeed, the atheistic-naturalist can claim that since science has allegedly been so successful in providing naturalistic explanations for physical phenomena while at the same time never having had to appeal to supernatural explanations for such phenomena, then it is reasonable to expect that science will provide us with a naturalistic explanation for the phenomena that atheistic-naturalism cannot, as of yet, explain. In essence, this is a position of ‘promissory-naturalism’, where the atheistic-naturalist has faith that science will eventually provide an answer to the problems that atheistic-naturalism currently cannot explain. And by appealing to this sort of promissory-naturalism, the atheistic-naturalist can claim that his belief in the worldview of atheistic-naturalism is not one which is built on blind faith, but rather it is built on a reasonable faith, which is borne from the success of science, and which assures the atheistic-naturalist that atheistic-naturalism will eventually have all the answers it seeks. There are, however, a vast number of problems with this appeal to promissory-naturalism.

First, note that, at best, this objection means that atheistic-naturalism is based on a reasonable faith, and yet, for all that one hears from atheistic-naturalists, one would get the impression that any position based on faith is not a rational one, and so it can be wondered why atheistic-naturalists can have a faith position, even an ostensibly ‘reasonable’ one, when they normally deny the validity of such positions to other worldviews. Should not such allegedly evidence-demanding atheistic-naturalists remain, at best, agnostic about atheistic-naturalism until and unless the grand claims of atheistic-naturalism are shown to be the case through evidence? And, to make matters worse, since such atheistic-naturalists also routinely claim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, then, once again, we can wonder if it would not be more consistent for such atheistic-naturalists to refrain from believing in the grander claims of their worldview until and unless the extraordinary evidence for those claims was presented.

Second, and connected to the first point, it can be wondered whether atheistic-naturalists are truly consistent when it comes to this appeal to the present success of some discipline as being the grounds for having a reasonable faith in that discipline’s future success. For example, imagine a Christian who argues that since we continue to find ancient copies of the New Testament and the Gospels, then we can have a reasonable faith that we will soon find a Gospel dating back to within a few years of Jesus’s life; now, would the atheistic-naturalist be willing to grant the Christian a reasonable faith in this case, or in another case like it, or rather would the atheistic-naturalist simply dismiss the Christian’s promissory-gospelism and tell the Christian to come back once he actually has the evidence in hand, and then the atheistic-naturalist will believe it? Since it is almost a guarantee that the latter is the case, then can the atheistic-naturalist be any more surprised when people do the same with his promissory-naturalism?

Third, note that the atheistic-naturalist’s alleged claim that science has been so successful in providing naturalistic explanations for all phenomena and never having to appeal to supernatural explanations is a rather grand claim, and yet it is one which is readily disputable. For example, the certified miracles of Lourdes provide a number of cases of events examined by science which nevertheless have no naturalistic explanations. Furthermore, a number of cases in Craig Keener’s massive book Miracles also provide numerous examples of events that science arguably could not explain. So the claim that science has been so successful at explaining alleged supernatural events naturalistically is not only highly questionable, but even false. And while it is true that the atheistic-naturalist will no doubt dispute the aforementioned claims in favor of the miraculous, it can also be noted that perhaps trusting an atheistic-naturalist’s impartial assessment of these things is about as sound as trusting a defendant’s mother to be an impartial juror at that defendant’s murder trial.

Fourth, another cause for concern with the ‘success of science’ appeal is that quite often, when the so-called naturalistic explanations are examined in detail and with some scrutiny, what was claimed to be a naturalistic “explanation” turns out to be much more of a naturalistic just-so story. Indeed, when the atheistic-naturalist is asked to provide a clear explanation of how some phenomenon occurred naturally, what is all too often encountered is actually just a naturalistic conjecture, supposition, and appeal to possibility and/or plausibility. Or it is a massive extrapolation based on very meager evidence. For example, within evolutionary biology, because micro-evolutionary changes are seen to occur and are posited to have a blind and unguided naturalistic explanation for their occurrence, this evidence is then used to support the claim that massive macro-evolutionary changes can occur and thus serve as the explanation of all life. But this is just an astounding extrapolation that is completely unwarranted by the evidence that supports it. And so the point here is that the appeal to these naturalistic just-so stories and extrapolations in place of actual explanations raise doubts concerning just how seriously we should take the claim that science has been so successful in providing actual naturalistic explanations for phenomena, rather than just providing naturalistic possibilities for those phenomena. At the same time, another factor to note is that in certain cases, the explanations that atheistic-naturalists offer, do not actually explain the phenomenon in question, but rather just explain it away. For example, concerning consciousness, certainly atheistic-naturalists do not actually explain what consciousness is or how it arose, but rather they simply say that consciousness is an illusion, thus not explaining the phenomena in question, but rather just eliminating it from consideration. And so this is another technique that should give one pause concerning the claim that scientific explanations for phenomena have always moved in the direction from supernaturalism to naturalism, for in many cases, and for some of the most important phenomenon—such as consciousness, is just one example—the atheistic-naturalist is not so much explaining the phenomena in question but simply getting rid of it so that it does not cause an impediment to the rationality of his worldview. And so, the fact that many proffered naturalistic explanations are not even really explanations at all thus makes the appeal to promissory-naturalism a rather weak promise.

Next, note that the ‘success of science’ appeal is also rather general, and as such, it is questionable whether the appeal to the success of science actually works when science is separated into different disciplines, as it should be in order for it to be properly appealed to in support of the cause of atheistic-naturalism. For example, do the successes achieved in physics or chemistry apply directly to biology or psychology? Of course not, for these are all separate fields, each with their own successes and failures, and each with their own track-record. So when discussing such a thing as the naturalistic explanation for a historical event like the origin-of-life on our planet, which is the purview of a forensic science, it is rather unsound to appeal to the success of an experimental science like physics in order to claim that origin-of-life studies will ultimately provide a naturalistic explanation for the origin-of-life. Furthermore, in certain fields, and thus when looking at particular disciplines, such as origin-of-life studies, it is questionable whether science has been moving towards having a naturalistic explanation or actually away from it; indeed, consider, for example, that science has been studying the origin-of-life since, arguably, the time of Darwin, and yet not only is science not closer to an explanation for the origin-of-life, but given the complexities discovered by science in even the simplest cell, a naturalistic explanation for the origin-of-life seems further from discovery at present than closer to it. Indeed, when the first cell was thought to be nothing more than just a glob of stuff, a naturalistic explanation for it seemed highly plausible, but as science showed us that the cell was a thing filled with complexity and molecular machines, the provision of a naturalistic explanation for such a thing seems further off than it was before, not closer. Thus, science itself, by trying to find a naturalistic explanation for such things as the origin-of-life, and yet not finding such an explanation even after both greater and longer searching for it, thus pushes us away from a naturalistic explanation, not towards one. And the same could be said for such things as the naturalistic explanation of consciousness, language, and so on. And so, in many cases, science is making the chances of finding a naturalistic explanation for certain phenomena less successful, not more so.

Finally, even if, for the sake of argument, it was granted that science was been successful in always providing naturalistic explanations for certain phenomena, this would not necessarily count as evidence in favor of atheistic-naturalism. Why? Because science, as it is practiced today, is a discipline that uses an approach of methodological naturalism, which in essence, states that only naturalistic explanations are viable scientific explanations. And so what this means is that of course science has always provided naturalistic explanations for certain phenomena—when it provides explanations at all—for those are the only types of explanations it is allowed to provide in order for those explanations to count as scientific ones! And so can it be any surprise that science always seems to come up with naturalistic explanations? Can it be any surprise that a scientific explanation is always a naturalistic one? Of course not, for the whole system is designed to only accept naturalistic explanations. But then the whole ‘success of science’ shtick is just a Catch-22: if an explanation is naturalistic, it is scientific, but if the explanation is not naturalistic, then it is not scientific, and so naturalistic explanations cannot fail to be scientific while non-naturalistic explanations can never be scientific. In fact, the use of methodological naturalism means that science will appeal to a naturalistic explanation for phenomena even if it is the false explanation for that phenomena! Furthermore, since the atheistic-naturalist can always appeal to promissory-naturalism, what this means is that the atheistic-naturalist never has to admit that some phenomena does not have a potential naturalistic explanation, for he can endlessly claim that science is still seeking an explanation, and since a scientific explanation must be a naturalistic one, then if a scientific explanation is ever found, it will be considered naturalistic. But what all this means is that the appeal to the success of science as a support for the reasonableness of promissory-naturalism is both useless and without force, for it is a rigged game where science always generates naturalistic explanations, and where no explanations exist, promissory-naturalism can be continuously and endlessly appealed to. And so, given the fact that promissory-naturalism is the magical promise that never expires, the appeal to promissory-naturalism does not look reasonable, but rather it appears contrived, unfalsifiable, and dogmatic.

And so, for all these reasons the appeal to the success of science as a means of making belief in promissory-naturalism reasonable is a rather weak move; furthermore, since we are not merely worried about a naturalistic explanation for how some phenomena came about naturalistically, but whether it even can come to be naturalistically, then the fact is that, in such a case, it is more rational to wait for to see if a naturalistic explanation is even possible for the phenomena identified in this dilemma than it is to trust to promissory-naturalism. Consequently, this option does not save atheistic-naturalism from the force of this dilemma.

Agnosticism and Theism

Now, in saying all of the above, please note that the dilemma that the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative provides to atheistic-naturalism is not, in and of itself, an argument for theism. Rather, it is a dilemma which is meant to show that the atheistic-naturalist, in order to be rational, should be an agnostic about the truth of atheistic-naturalism, but he should not be an actual atheistic-naturalist, for it is not rational to be so. Thus, at best, this dilemma should merely move an atheistic-naturalist away from atheistic-naturalism towards agnosticism, but not necessarily towards theism.

Finally, and as argued in these past three essays, let it be noted that while atheistic-naturalism suffers from a dilemma where both horns point towards blind faith when it is coupled with the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, the same problem does not arise for a worldview like theism, especially Christian theism. After all, on theism, God is infinite in power, ability, and knowledge, which means that we know, by definition, that God would have the power to create life, consciousness, and so on. Thus, on theism, while there might be a question of how God created these things, there is no question that God could do so, and so theism is a worldview that does indeed have a genuine ‘reasonable faith’ concerning these questions, for we know that God could do these things even if we do not know how He did them. By contrast, atheistic-naturalism, as argued, only has a blind faith concerning these matters given that it neither knows how these things occurred naturalistically or even if they ever could occur naturalistically. And this is the critical difference, for whereas theism, by definition, knows that God could create these things, the atheistic-naturalist does not even know if these things could come about on atheistic-naturalism, let only how they did come about. Therefore, whereas theism combined with evolution offers no ‘blind faith’ dilemma to the theist, naturalistic evolution combined with atheistic-naturalism does indeed offer such a dilemma to the atheistic-naturalist.

And so, the long and short of it is this: the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative does indeed pose a dilemma for atheistic-naturalism, and the various objections that can be mounted against this dilemma do not save atheistic-naturalism from its force. Thus, in light of this dilemma, the atheistic-naturalist, if he is to be rational, has good grounds to move away from atheistic-naturalism and towards agnosticism.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 06

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Objections to Horn One of Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Objections to Horn One of Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma

In a previous essay titled ‘Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma’, it was noted that the atheistic-naturalist is forced into a dilemma given that his worldview is essentially wed to the grand naturalistic version of the evolutionary narrative, which is indeed the only live option that the atheistic-naturalist can appeal to in order to explain the existence and development of all life. On the one hand, if the atheistic-naturalist denies the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then he suddenly has a worldview that has no viable explanation for the existence and apparent design of living things, as well as having a worldview that is thus based on blind faith given its lack of an explanation for biological life. On the other hand, if the atheistic-naturalist binds himself to the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then the fact that that narrative has no evidence for many of its major claims—such as, for example, abiogenesis or the emergence of consciousness—also means that the atheistic-naturalist’s worldview is based on blind faith. So whatever way that he turns, the atheistic-naturalist’s worldview is not one based on evidence, but rather it is a worldview built on an edifice of faith. And since believing things on the basis of blind faith is allegedly antithetical to the spirit of atheistic-naturalism, then this dilemma means that atheistic-naturalists should actually cease being atheistic-naturalists, for they hold a worldview which is antithetical to one of their own stated principles. And so this is a serious dilemma for the atheistic-naturalist. But, as with all arguments, some objections can be offered against them, and this one is no different, and so it is precisely those objections, or at least the ones related to the first horn of the dilemma, which this essay will address.

Now, as mentioned above, the first horn of this dilemma claims that if the atheistic-naturalistic disassociates himself from the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative then he suddenly has a worldview that has no viable explanation for the existence and apparent design of living things, as well as having a worldview that is thus based on blind faith given its lack of an explanation for biological life. Furthermore, the overwhelming appearance of design in living things—a fact admitted by many atheistic-naturalists themselves—suddenly becomes a major problem too, for if the atheistic-naturalist has no means of explaining this appearance of design in a naturalistic way, then it suddenly becomes eminently reasonable to believe that the appearance of design in living things is present because living things actually are designed by a designer.

Now, in answer to this first horn of the dilemma, the atheistic-naturalist can simply note that while the denial of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative would leave a large gap in his worldview, his worldview is still logically tenable even with this gap. However, there are two responses that can be made to this claim. First, it is possible to agree with this point, but then to note that the dilemma is ultimately not meant to deny the mere logical tenability of atheistic-naturalism without the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, but rather to point out that atheistic-naturalism is a worldview built on blind faith, and that is a point which the aforementioned objection does nothing to negate. But second, it is actually questionable whether atheistic-naturalism would be tenable—perhaps logically tenable, but not reasonably tenable—without including its only live option of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative as the explanation for all of biological life. After all, explaining the origin of life, language, consciousness, rationality, and so on are foundational issues, and any worldview which not only has no explanation for how these things came to be but does not even know if they could come to be on the worldview in question, is arguably not a reasonable or tenable worldview, at least not if one wishes to avoid charges of fideism. Add to this issue the fact that life gives off the overwhelming appearance of design, with the natural implication that there exists some type of designer, and it suddenly becomes less-than-tenable for a naturalistic worldview to have no explanation for the existence of biological life in the face of such a forceful appearance of design in biological organisms. And so, as stated, it is quite questionable whether or not atheistic-naturalism actually is tenable in any real sense without attaching itself to the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative.

Next, the atheistic-naturalist, in repudiating the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, could offer some other naturalistic narrative to account for the origin and development of all biological life. For example, perhaps the atheistic-naturalist could claim that biological life is the result of accidental but massive freak mutations which changed biological organisms completely in one fell swoop and that such changes occurred numerous times in the past, thereby accounting for all the variety of life that we currently see. However, any such alternative narrative would very likely be even more implausible than the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, and it would very likely be based on just as little evidence, if not even less, than the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative itself, and so the main thrust of the dilemma would still remain in force even with the attempt at offering an alternative naturalistic account of how biological organisms came to be on atheistic-naturalism. Furthermore, the fact that no atheistic-naturalists offer such a different account in any serious way, but rather always appeal to naturalistic evolution of some type as the method of accounting for the existence and development of biological life, thereby offers good evidence of the intellectual poverty of trying to offer a completely different naturalistic account for the origin and development of biological life.

Finally, if the atheistic-naturalist denies the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, and in light of the overwhelming appearance of design in biological organisms, thus appeals to some kind of naturalistic design as the explanation for biological life, then such an explanation might be viable, but it merely pushes the question of explaining biological life in a naturalistic fashion in the direction of having to provide a naturalistic account of how our designer came to be naturalistically. In essence, an appeal to naturalistic design does nothing to help the atheistic-naturalist towards explaining or accounting for biological life, it merely pushes the issue back one step. And, at the same time, since the atheistic-naturalist, in this case, is admitting to the design of biological organisms, then this admittance, in and of itself, provides support to those individuals pointing to the supernatural design of biological organisms, such as many individuals in the Intelligent Design movement. So by admitting to the design of biological organisms, even if only admitting to the naturalistic design of such organisms, the atheistic-naturalist is nevertheless providing aid and comfort, so to speak, to his ideological enemies, and this is something that the atheistic-naturalist would likely not be willing to do. And so the design option is available to the atheistic-naturalist, but it is a very dangerous option indeed, for it ultimately does little to help his position, but it does greatly help the position of his ideological opponents.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  the objections that the atheistic-naturalist can mount to the first horn of the dilemma summarized at the start of this essay simply do not improve the atheistic-naturalist’s position at all. Thus, the atheistic-naturalist’s best hope to solve this evolutionary dilemma is to object to the second horn of the dilemma, and it is precisely those objections which shall be examined in yet another essay.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 01

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma

Although atheistic-naturalism—the most popular and arguably the only coherent and consistent form of atheism—is not necessarily wed to affirming and accepting the grand narrative of blind and unguided evolution, the fact of the matter is that in practice, for the atheistic-naturalist, the grand theory of naturalistic (meaning blind and unguided) evolution is the only game in town. Consequently, the atheist has little choice but to affirm something like naturalistic evolution and naturalistic abiogenesis as not only the explanation for the beginning of life and its future development, but also as the explanation for such things as human rationality and consciousness. But the fact that the atheistic-naturalist is essentially bound to such a theory presents the atheistic-naturalist with a dilemma which is highly detrimental to the rationality of his worldview as well as to his own intellectual consistency. And so, to understand the problems that arise for the atheistic-naturalist due to connection to naturalistic evolution, consider the two horns of the dilemma that the atheistic-naturalist must face.

Horn One

Initially, consider that if the atheistic-naturalist decides not to affirm the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then the atheistic-naturalist runs into two problems. First, because the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative is the atheistic-naturalist’s only live option to explain the existence and development of life, and yet given that, as even many atheistic-naturalists themselves admit, life readily looks designed, then if the atheistic-naturalist does not appeal to something like the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative as his explanation for the fact that life clearly appears designed, then the option of design suddenly looms large for both the atheistic-naturalist and everyone else. Indeed, if the atheistic-naturalist cannot even appeal to something like the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative as his way of trying to account for not only the existence of life but also the way in which life appears designed, then it is not surprising that people would thus readily start to affirm the fact that life looks designed because it is designed, and that some type of designer must thus exist. So denying naturalistic evolution and abiogenesis causes the design option to become the only live and reasonable option available to explain the existence of life and its apparent design.

But now, the second problem is that if the atheistic-naturalist does not affirm his only live option of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, and yet if he also does not affirm design as the explanation of life, then the atheistic-naturalist thus has such a large and gaping hole in his worldview that it could easily be objected that his worldview is irrational, or, at the very least, it would be a worldview based on blind faith. After all, if the atheistic-naturalist cannot explain something as fundamental as the existence and development of life on his worldview, but nevertheless still believes that it “somehow” occurred naturally and without design, then this is quite clearly a fideistic position. Indeed, for while an atheistic-naturalist could deny the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative without offering anything in its place and yet still technically remain an atheistic-naturalist, holding to such an overall position, especially in the face of the challenge of design and the appearance of design in life, would thus be a position which was one not based on evidence or argument, but rather on mere blind faith. After all, as even atheist and evolution-proponent Richard Dawkins says on page 6 of the 2006 Penguin edition of his book The Blind Watchmaker “…although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” So without Darwin, there is no intellectually fulfilled atheism, and that, quite frankly, would be a serious blow to atheistic-naturalism as a coherent and rational worldview.

But the problem stretches even further, for most atheistic-naturalists pride themselves on not holding anything on “faith”, and especially not on blind faith; and so to an atheistic-naturalist who holds to such an anti-faith perspective, then, in order to be consistent, the atheist-naturalist should not hold to a worldview that has a ‘blind faith’ component to it, and thus the atheistic-naturalist should not be an atheistic-naturalist at all. And so this overall problem is the first horn of the dilemma that evolution presents to atheistic-naturalism.

Horn Two

Now, the second horn of this problematic dilemma arises if the atheistic-naturalist does indeed affirm the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, as he essentially must do and as he almost always does. And what this second problem is, is that it once again makes atheistic-naturalism into a worldview that is based, in substantial part, on blind faith. After all, no matter what sort of just-so stories are offered, and no matter how many appeals to “possibility” are made, the fact remains that numerous major portions of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative have not been demonstrated at all and are believed to have occurred on the basis of nothing more than faith alone. Consider, for example, the utter absence of any evidence, let alone comprehensive evidence, for a naturalistic explanation for the origin-of-life, the Cambrian Explosion, the development of other body plans, the emergence of language, consciousness, rationality, and so on; and this is not even to mention the more mundane concerns about atheistic-naturalism having little more than just-so stories as the explanation for the development of such minor things as eyes, wings, and so on. And so accepting the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative means accepting large aspects of it on faith; it is, once again, a fideistic position.

Now, it needs to be understood that the problem here is not that the atheistic-naturalist lacks any explanation or evidence for how things like life, consciousness, rationality, and so on, came to be naturally—although this problem is bad enough even on its own—but rather, the problem is that the atheistic-naturalist does not even know whether it is possible at all that these things could come about naturally. Sure, it is ‘logically possible’ in the broad sense that these things could come about naturalistically—after all, there is no logical contradiction in them—but this does not mean that these things are physically possible in the real world given the conditions that operate in this world. And by way of analogy, consider that it is ‘logically possible’ in the broad sense that an unassisted human being, today, could run ten thousand miles per hour, but this does not mean that it is physically possible given what human beings are today, and given the conditions of this earthly environment, etc.; and indeed, no human being could actually run that speed today even though it is logically possible that one could. And, as stated, the atheistic-naturalist has the same problem: he can claim that it is possible that life can come from non-life naturalistically or that consciousness can do the same, but making such an appeal to mere possibility in the broad sense is ultimately vacuous, for it does nothing to show that such a thing is possible in this universe. And sadly for the atheistic-naturalist, the only way to show that such a thing is physically possible, is to actually show it come about. And yet doing so in a clear evidentiary way would be very difficult, if not impossible; however, until and unless the atheistic-naturalist does so, then a major component of his worldview is, as stated, based on nothing but blind faith. Furthermore, and as with the first horn of the dilemma, for any atheistic-naturalist who normally refuses to believe anything on blind faith, then the fact that a major and critical component of his worldview is held to be true based on nothing but blind faith means that such an atheistic-naturalist, if he is to remain consistent, should cease being an atheistic-naturalist at all.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  for all practical purposes, atheistic-naturalism is wed to the grand naturalistic version of the evolutionary narrative, which is the only live option that the atheistic-naturalist can appeal to in order to explain the existence and development of all life. Yet if the atheistic-naturalist denies this connection, then he suddenly has a worldview that has absolutely no explanation for the existence and apparent design of living things, as well as having a worldview that has a critical dollop of blind faith attached to it. On the other hand, if the atheistic-naturalist ties himself to the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then the fact that that narrative has no evidence for many of its major claims also means that the atheistic-naturalist holds to a worldview based on blind faith. And so either way that he turns, the atheistic-naturalist does not hold a worldview based on evidence, but rather he holds to a worldview where some of its most critical components have no supporting evidence at all. And since holding to certain beliefs on the basis of blind faith is allegedly anathema to many atheistic-naturalists, then this dilemma means that they should cease being atheistic-naturalists, or at least they should stop pretending to be consistent ones. Now, there are indeed objections that can be mounted against this dilemma, but those objections will be addressed in a separate essay.

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Anno Domini 2016 12 29

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Another Objection to Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Another Objection to Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma

In response to the dilemma that evolution poses to atheism, commentator Andrew offers yet another objection to this argument, and since his objection is quite interesting, it is well-worth a detailed response. As such, and before considering the objection in its various parts, let us first review Andrew’s whole objection, which is the following:

[QUOTE] Possible counter-argument:

(1) Across societies and times, and continuing to the present, there is great variety in what people believe with respect to the supernatural, including much contradiction.

(2) Given the presence of this contradiction, it is obvious that much of what humanity believes about the supernatural is false.

At this point, many atheist apologists assert “given that much of it is false, it’s reasonable to treat it all as false”. This is a stupid argument, not the least because for any given true belief it is possible to concoct a plurality of beliefs that are like to it but are false. To put an extreme example, there is exactly one true solution to “X = 2 + 2”, but the set of false solutions is infinite in the natural numbers alone. The presence of many false solutions does not disprove the existence of a true one.

But let us instead go in a different direction:

(3) Despite most societies holding false beliefs about the supernatural, most remain functional to a greater or lesser extent.

(4) Thus, while having belief in the supernatural may be a survival benefit, whether such a belief is accurate or not confers little to no benefit.

(5) In contrast, having more accurate beliefs about the natural world typically leads to a survival benefit to the peoples or societies involved.

(6) Having shown that inaccurate beliefs about the natural world decreases survival, while having inaccurate beliefs about the supernatural does not, it’s reasonable to conclude that our minds are tuned towards accurately tracking the natural but not the supernatural.

I’m sure there are ways to nitpick this, but I think the core idea represents a legitimate challenge. One could answer it by showing that a particular set of beliefs about the supernatural leads to better outcomes, but I think that in this context “better” draws in more moral baggage (and thus needs more apologetic work) for the theist than “survival advantage” does for the atheist (as long as he/she avoids holding up survival as a moral good).

How would you deal with this? [UNQUOTE]

So, have looked at the whole objection, let us now dissect it in detail; therefore, let us consider Andrew’s initial claim, which is the following:

[QUOTE] Possible counter-argument: (1) Across societies and times, and continuing to the present, there is great variety in what people believe with respect to the supernatural, including much contradiction. [UNQUOTE]

 Now, the first thing to note in response to Andrew’s claim is that we need to distinguish between what could be called ‘primary’ belief differences and ‘secondary’ belief differences, where secondary beliefs are those that are built upon the primary ones and which would not exist without the primary beliefs being in place first. And to understand what I mean, think, for example, of the history of the Titanic. A primary difference concerning the Titanic would be a debate over whether or not the ship actually sank, whereas a secondary difference would be whether it sank as a whole ship or broke in half before doing so. In the same way, when it comes to the variety of supernatural beliefs, we must separate primary differences from secondary ones, and when we do so, we find that there is not that much primary difference between supernatural belief systems. For example, nearly all supernatural systems believe that gods exist, that spirits exist, that these spirits can have an effect on the world and can be interacted with, that there is a life after this one, and that there is an after-life punishment for misbehavior in this life. Now, in terms of secondary differences, this is where the great deal of variety rests. For example, is reincarnation or resurrection true, or is God the greatest conceivable being or not, and so on. And so in terms of secondary beliefs, there are indeed differences.  Nevertheless, the point is that at a fundamental level, different supernatural belief systems are quite similar, and they all obviously agree that atheistic-naturalism is false.

Notice as well that if the atheist objects to the distinction between primary and secondary differences, then he runs into a problem for himself. Why? Because the same distinction applies to natural things, such as science, as well. For example, consider evolution. Though most atheists concur that evolution occurred, they differ on what the main mechanism of evolution was, whether it was continually gradual or rapid then slow, or whether such things as group-level selection occur or not. So even in the realm of evolution, we have primary agreement with secondary disagreement. And the same could be extended to other sciences as well, not to mention numerous other domains such as history, for example. So the point here that the atheist cannot object to such a distinction, nor object to the importance of this distinction, without also undermining his own beliefs about numerous natural subjects as well.

Now, Andrew continues:

[QUOTE] (2) Given the presence of this contradiction, it is obvious that much of what humanity believes about the supernatural is false. [UNQUOTE]

In the case of outright contradictions, this would be correct. And yet we must be careful here, for things can be contradictory on a secondary level without being contradictory on a primary one. Again, think of evolution: atheists agree that evolution occurs, but some might believe that group-level selection occurs while others do not, and yet these secondary-level contradictions do not negate the primary belief that evolution did occur. And the same could be true for supernatural belief systems. So, for example, two different supernatural systems could have contradictory accounts of the origins of, say, spirits—which would be a secondary belief—and yet both could be correct about the primary belief that spirits exist. So a contradiction in secondary beliefs need not be a contradiction in primary ones. At the same time, we must also be careful of claiming that things are contradictions, when, in fact, they are not. For example, Hinduism holds that hundreds and even thousands of gods exist, and yet Christianity teaches that only one Supreme God exists. However, this is not necessarily an outright contradiction, for what Hinduism considers to be lower-case ‘g’ gods, Christianity would consider fallen angels separated from God, thereby seeming to be gods in this world; after all, Christianity teaches that Satan is the prince of this world, and Satan’s power certainly makes equal to something like a lower-case ‘g’ god. And so again, we must be cautious before we claim that something is an outright contradiction rather than just being a definitional difference.

Next, Andrew states:

[QUOTE] At this point, many atheist apologists assert “given that much of it is false, it’s reasonable to treat it all as false”. This is a stupid argument, not the least because for any given true belief it is possible to concoct a plurality of beliefs that are like to it but are false. … The presence of many false solutions does not disprove the existence of a true one. [UNQUOTE]

This is true and correct. Furthermore, consider that much of past science has been shown to be incorrect, and this trend is no doubt bound to continue into the future, and yet this does not mean that we should treat all of science as false. At the same time, even though we could offer numerous different theories to account for our empirical observations, and even though most of these theories would be false and even contradictory, this does not mean that one of them is not the correct one. So again, Andrew is correct in his point above.

Additionally, note that even if we take this objection seriously, then, at best, it seems that what could be argued is that much of the secondary aspects of supernatural beliefs are false, and that it is reasonable to treat these secondary aspects as false or be agnostic about them; but that does not mean that it is reasonable to treat the primary beliefs as false. After all, think again of the evolution example: though it might be reasonable to be agnostic about whether group-level selection occurs, or whether evolution is gradual or not, or what the primary evolutionary mechanism is, this does not mean that it is reasonable to be agnostic about whether or not evolution occurred at all. Now you might have other reasons to discount certain primary beliefs about evolution, but just because there is a dispute about the secondary aspects of it should not necessarily be one of those reasons. And so again, distinguishing between primary and secondary beliefs is critical in this case.

But now Andrew moves to his main objection:

[QUOTE] But let us instead go in a different direction:

(3) Despite most societies holding false beliefs about the supernatural, most remain functional to a greater or lesser extent.

(4) Thus, while having belief in the supernatural may be a survival benefit, whether such a belief is accurate or not confers little to no benefit.

(5) In contrast, having more accurate beliefs about the natural world typically leads to a survival benefit to the peoples or societies involved.

(6) Having shown that inaccurate beliefs about the natural world decreases survival, while having inaccurate beliefs about the supernatural does not, it’s reasonable to conclude that our minds are tuned towards accurately tracking the natural but not the supernatural. [UNQUOTE]

So, this is Andrew’s main argument. And as we examine it, let us look at Point 3 first. Note again that this point does not distinguish between primary and secondary differences. Indeed, this point, even if accepted, should read that most societies holding false secondary beliefs about the supernatural remain functional to a greater or lesser extent. And this will be an important issue shortly.

Next, note Point 4. Again, the difference between primary and secondary beliefs needs to be brought to the forefront. After all, it would be highly beneficial to a person’s survival to have correct primary beliefs about the supernatural, such as having the correct belief about whether spirits actually exist and can be interacted with to aid human survival; by contrast, it may not be beneficial to have accurate secondary beliefs about the supernatural, such as whether those spirits are Hindu gods or Christian demons or whether. So it can be true that being accurate in terms of primary beliefs about the supernatural may have an enormous survival benefit—for example, think about the survival advantage granted by knowing that a spirit exists who can make it rain food from the sky and knowing how to ask this from him—while at the same time, the survival advantage granted by having accurate secondary beliefs about the supernatural is minimal—such as knowing the spirit’s exact name or history. Furthermore, it is also interesting to note that being accurate about certain supernatural beliefs—such as the belief in the existence of interactive and human-assisting spirits—could be much more important from a survival perspective than numerous beliefs about the natural world, such as that evolution is true or that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Indeed, if I was a human trying to survive in a harsh environment, being accurate about certain supernatural beliefs would be much more important for my survival than being accurate about certain natural facts. After all, if I am going to use valuable time and resources for a supernatural purpose, such as making offerings of food, or animals, or prayer, then it would be highly beneficial to be accurate about whether or not the use of that time and those resources for the supernatural purpose will actually have a survival-enhancing effect or not. By contrast, if I am inaccurate in my beliefs about evolution or other abstract scientific or mathematic or philosophical facts, then this does little to nothing to harm my survival chances. Thus, accuracy concerning the supernatural could be much more important, from a survival perspective, then accuracy concerning abstract and non-survival-related facts about the natural world.

Now, onto Point 5. Here the assumption is made that having more accurate beliefs about the natural world leads to survival benefits. But does it? Well, consider some issues with this claim. For example, at present, Western societies are much more advanced in terms of having accurate beliefs about the natural world when compared to other more primitive cultures, and yet primitive cultures, at least from an evolutionary perspective, appear to be outbreeding Western societies quite well. In fact, accurate beliefs about such natural world things as abortion and contraception do not seem to be helping the demographic survival of Western peoples but actually hindering them, thus making them less successful, at least when viewed from an evolutionary perspective. So it is not clear that having accurate natural world beliefs leads to greater survival from an evolutionary perspective; or, at the very least, it is not clear that having accurate beliefs about natural world issues not directly related to one’s survival—such as abstract science, or philosophy, or mathematics—is in any way beneficial. However, note as well that it is even questionable whether having accurate beliefs about survival-related natural-world issues does increase one’s survival chances. After all, imagine, for example, that a person believes that, for human beings, exchanging saliva through kissing for five minutes leads to reproduction, whereas engaging in actual intercourse is just a medicinal action which transfers “critical chi energy” from one person to another; now, every time that this particular person “reproduces” through kissing, he then also has intercourse to replenish his chi energy. Now these beliefs about reproduction are false, and yet in comparison to a person with true beliefs about reproduction, would the person with false beliefs be any less reproductively successful? It is not clear that they would be less successful. After all, the person’s body would engage in all the right actions to reproduce even though he had completely false beliefs about what he was doing. Furthermore, a whole society with such a false belief about reproduction could nevertheless still reproduce just as well as a society with true beliefs about the subject. So again, it is not clear that accuracy about natural-world issues is more beneficial for survival. And indeed, for a further example of this, think of a person who believes that all predators with sharp teeth also have poison in their teeth; now such a person might have a false secondary belief about predators, but if he ran from predators just as hard as someone with a true belief about predators, then the person with a false secondary belief would survive just as well. Thus, again, it is not clear that accurate beliefs about secondary survival issues are needed for a person to have a survival benefit. In fact, in some cases, having outright delusional beliefs might aid in a person’s survival; for example, a man who is objectively ugly, physically weak, and undesirable, but who falsely believes that he is God’s gift to women, may be more reproductively successful, simply through his endlessly persistent efforts to reproduce, then a similar man who has an accurate view of himself and thus never tries to reproduce because he is accurate in his assessment of his undesirability. So, in some cases, false beliefs about the natural world may actually be more beneficial than true ones!

And finally, Andrew concludes his argument by saying that since having inaccurate beliefs about the natural world decreases survival, while having inaccurate beliefs about the supernatural does not, then it is reasonable to conclude that our minds are tuned towards accurately tracking the natural but not the supernatural. But, as shown, all the points leading to this conclusion are, at best, questionable, and, at worst, wrong. And so the conclusion itself is questionable.

And yet an even further problem with Andrew’s argument—at least in terms of its ability to undermine the dilemma that evolution creates for atheistic-naturalism—is that Andrew’s argument actually creates its own dilemma for the atheistic-naturalist given that a parallel argument can be made concerning the accuracy of our cognitive faculties for scientific and/or philosophical beliefs, and since atheistic-naturalism is a philosophical belief which largely draws on scientific facts for its justification, then this parallel argument serves to undermine atheistic-naturalism just as much as the original dilemma did. Not only this, but Andrew’s argument can even be flipped on its head to support supernaturalism while undermining atheistic-naturalism. And to understand what I mean, consider this argument which mirrors Andrew’s original argument:

  1. Despite most societies, in the past, as well as the present, holding false beliefs about science (biology, cosmology, etc) and about philosophy, they nevertheless remained functional to a greater or lesser extent.
  1. Thus, while having some type of philosophical and scientific beliefs may have a survival benefit, whether such beliefs are accurate or not confers little to no benefit.
  1. By contrast, having accurate primary beliefs about the supernatural world—whether it exists or not, whether the beings in it can interact with the world, etc—typically leads to a survival benefit to the peoples or societies involved in such beliefs given that accurate primary beliefs about the supernatural world will dictate whether or not to devote time and resources to dealing with this world or not. Indeed, if an interactive supernatural world exists, then having an accurate belief concerning it could literally be the difference between life and death for a society, or it could mean greater success than a competing social group who does not have such an accurate belief about the supernatural world.
  1. So, having shown that accurate beliefs about science and/or philosophy have little to no survival-benefit, while having accurate beliefs about the supernatural would have a survival benefit, then it’s reasonable to conclude that our minds are tuned towards accurately tracking primary beliefs about the supernatural world but not about science and/or philosophy. Or, at the very least, our minds are more accurately tuned to tracking primary beliefs about the supernatural world in comparison to accurately tracking beliefs about science and/or philosophy.
  1. But since atheistic-naturalism is a philosophical point-of-view largely based on the findings of science, then if human cognitive faculties are not tuned towards being accurate about such beliefs, then humans have a reason to doubt their accuracy concerning the truth of atheistic-naturalism while nevertheless having confidence about their accuracy concerning supernaturalism.
  1. And if we nevertheless do believe ourselves to be accurate concerning scientific and/or philosophical beliefs, then we have all the more reason to be more confident concerning our belief about supernaturalism, for we are tuned to be more accurate about primary supernatural beliefs then we are about scientific and/or philosophical beliefs.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  if human evolutionary survival is indeed linked to humans having reliable cognitive faculties, then evolution, in and of itself, arguably gives us a reason to trust the reliability of our cognitive faculties concerning the supernatural more than it does concerning science, philosophy, or the atheistic-naturalism that grows out of them. And so appealing to a connection between our evolutionary survival and reliable cognitive faculties will not help the atheistic-naturalist avoid Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma.

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Anno Domini 2016 12 23

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Objections to Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Objections to Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma

In the previous essay titled “Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma’, it was noted that evolution presents atheists and atheistic-naturalists with a dilemma: namely, if the atheistic-naturalist believes that evolution created human beings with cognitive faculties that have a low or inscrutable reliability when it comes to tracking the truth about the world, then the atheistic-naturalist has a reason to disbelieve or be uncertain about everything that is delivered by those cognitive faculties, including his belief in evolution and atheistic-naturalism; but if the atheistic-naturalist believes that evolution created human beings with cognitive faculties that have a high reliability when it comes to tracking the truth about the world, then the atheistic-naturalist has a reason to disbelieve or be uncertain about atheistic-naturalism, for those highly reliable cognitive faculties have almost universally created, in human beings, the belief that atheistic-naturalism is false and that theism and/or supernaturalism is true. So whatever way the atheistic-naturalist turns, evolution creates a problem for him given that it seems to generate a defeater for belief in atheistic-naturalism regardless of which route the atheistic-naturalist decides to take. And yet, as with all arguments, this one is subject to certain objections, and so those objections must be dealt with, which is precisely what we will now do.

Now, when dealing with the objections that the atheistic-naturalist might raise, the first thing to be careful of is that the atheistic-naturalist simply not try to ‘special-plead’ his way out of this dilemma by merely asserting that theistic and/or supernatural belief just happens to be a major exception to humanity’s otherwise reliable evolution-created truth-tracking cognitive faculties. Indeed, until and unless the atheistic-naturalist gives us a sound reason to believe him, the atheistic-naturalist cannot just claim, without evidence, that our cognitive faculties are reliable in their truth-tracking ability except when it comes to theistic and/or supernatural beliefs. That would be obvious special-pleading. And yet, if the atheistic-naturalist does try to give a reason for why theistic and/or supernatural beliefs should not be considered a reliable deliverance of our cognitive faculties when most of its other deliverances are, then the atheistic-naturalist runs into numerous other dilemma-like problems which still undermine atheistic-naturalism.

First, notice that if the atheistic-naturalist does indeed claim that humanity’s evolution-created cognitive faculties are reliably truth-tracking, but not for theistic and/or supernatural beliefs, then the atheistic-naturalist has a serious problem, for given the absolutely pervasive nature of theistic and/or supernatural beliefs across all of human history, then this raises the question that if human cognitive faculties can be so widely mistaken in such an crucial area, then this fact is itself some grounds to doubt the truth-tracking reliability of human cognitive faculties in general. And so, the atheistic-naturalist is back at the original problem of now having a reason to believe that the truth-tracking reliability of human cognitive faculties is either low or inscrutable. So this is the first issue with claiming that human cognitive faculties are unreliable concerning belief in theism and/or supernaturalism: namely, that it forces the atheistic-naturalist right back into the original dilemma that he was trying to deal with.

Second, the atheistic-naturalist might try to claim that theistic and/or supernatural beliefs allegedly involve non-visible entities and/or entities merely inferred to exist from their effects, and so this is why human cognitive faculties are unreliable concerning theistic and/or supernatural beliefs, but not unreliable in general. And yet, once again, numerous problems arise with this objection. After all, numerous theistic and/or supernatural belief systems claim that the gods and/or supernatural beings that they posit as existent are not only perceivable by human senses, but they may even be outright material in nature. And so it cannot simply be assumed that theistic and/or supernatural entities, if existent, would not be manifest to human senses. Indeed, such beings might be entirely visible to human sense organs, as many religions, such as Christianity with the resurrected Jesus, claim. But the other problem for this objection is that if the atheistic-naturalist argues that human cognitive faculties are not reliable when it comes to non-visible entities and/or entities inferred to exist from their effects, then the atheistic-naturalist has just thrown major doubt on humanity’s ability to do a great deal of science, given that science, in very large part, is based on humans making inferences concerning unseen entities from the alleged effects that those entities make. Furthermore, what does this objection mean for a human being’s inference concerning the existence of other unseen minds, the actual existence of matter, which is never seen but only inferred, and numerous other common but inferred beliefs concerning things that are not directly visible to the senses. In essence, this objection undermines the reliability of a large part of the beliefs that we all consider reliable and which we all generally hold.

Third, the atheist-naturalist might argue that whereas human cognitive faculties are of high truth-tracking reliability when it comes to issues concerning survival, they are not as reliable concerning non-survival related matters, such as theistic and/or supernatural beliefs. But again, problems arise for this objection, such as the fact that it simply assumes that theism and/or supernaturalism had nothing to do with human survival in the past; indeed, this objection, in essence, simply assumes the truth of atheistic-naturalism as a presupposition. But that if the very point under discussion. After all, consider that if interactive theistic and/or supernatural entities exist and affect the world through such things as miracles or answering prayers, as most theistic and/or supernatural worldviews claim, then such entities would be intimately and directly linked to human survival, and so human cognitive faculties would be reliable concerning them even given this objection. Furthermore, if the atheistic-naturalist wants to claim that human cognitive faculties are only, or primarily, of high truth-tracking reliability when it concerns matters related to survival, then once again, such a view creates problems for science, abstract mathematics, and philosophy. Indeed, it raises problems for atheistic-naturalism in particular given that the worldview of atheistic-naturalism is a conclusion of abstract philosophy, not a conclusion prone out of a need to survive. So again, the atheistic-naturalist has a problem, for whatever way that he turns, the conclusion for atheistic-naturalism is not good even given this objection.

Fourth—and related to the third point—the atheistic-naturalist could argue that theistic and/or supernatural beliefs are simply a by-product of the evolutionary process, and hence are unreliable due to this fact. And yet, science, mathematics, philosophy, and numerous other advanced fields are also merely by-products of humanity’s evolutionary past that have no direct relationship to humanity’s evolutionary survival, and so again, to deny the reliability of theistic and/or supernatural beliefs due to their being a by-product—admitted presently only for the sake of argument—is to also cast doubt on the reliability of human cognitive faculties concerning all those other areas as well. But again, this then casts doubt on atheistic-naturalism itself, given that belief in atheistic-naturalism is a product of philosophical reasoning and alleged inferences from science. And so again, by the mere act of trying to avoid the dilemma that evolution presents to it, atheistic-naturalism is nevertheless still in serious trouble from the very objections that it tries to use to protect itself from that dilemma.

Finally, perhaps the atheistic-naturalist might argue that since theistic and/or supernatural beliefs were allegedly created in humanity’s evolutionary past by something like the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD), then this explanation is sufficient to account for why human cognitive faculties could have high truth-tracking reliability in other areas, but nevertheless be mistaken concerning theistic and/or supernatural beliefs. Now, leaving aside the obvious issue of the genetic fallacy here, the further problem for this objection is that this explanation merely assumes that atheistic-naturalism is true and then seeks an explanation for theistic and/or supernatural beliefs from within that perspective. But it is unsound to simply assume atheistic-naturalism to be the case. After all, whereas the atheistic-naturalist assumes that a person’s detection of a theistic and/or supernatural entity is a false positive (meaning that the human believes that something is true even though it is not), the fact is that the very reason that human beings may have claimed to detect theistic and/or supernatural entities in the past is because such entities were actually there and were really detected! Indeed, just because a person has a Hyperactive Agency Detection Device does not show, in and of itself, that the person is not detecting actual supernatural entities; making such a claim takes further philosophical argumentation and appeals to such things as simplicity, so the mere existence of the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device does not do the work that the atheistic-naturalist might want it to do. Furthermore, there is also a chicken-and-egg problem here, for whereas the atheistic-naturalist contends that the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device gave rise to theistic and/or supernatural belief, the theist and/or supernaturalist could question whether or not the prevalence of theistic and/or supernatural entities did not give rise to the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device. Indeed, a supernaturalist, arguing from his perspective rather than a naturalistic one, could claim that supernatural entities were so prevalent in the past—as numerous religions contend—that it was the prevalence of these supernatural entities which gave rise to the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device, rather than vis versa. So the atheistic-naturalist needs to contend with this counter-argument prior to merely claiming that the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device is the explanation for theistic and/or supernatural beliefs.

In addition to the above, it also needs to be noted that the theist and/or supernaturalist has his own evolutionary explanation for the rise of atheistic-naturalism. After all, in a world filled with theistic and/or supernatural entities which have an effect on human beings and which human being cannot control, it would not be surprising that a small percentage of human beings, being unable to psychologically cope with the knowledge that such entities exist, would engage in a form of psychological denial as a means to protect themselves psychologically from this truth in order to continue functioning in the world. Indeed, such a condition could be summarized as ‘Supernatural Denial Syndrome’; after all, denial is well-known psychological defensive mechanism, and it could just as likely be the cause of belief in atheistic-naturalism as the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device is the cause of theistic and/or supernaturalist belief. So, in many ways, this would be a form of Hysterical Blindness concerning theism and/or supernaturalism (and please note that Hysterical Blindness is where a person under high stress, such as a soldier, stops being able to see even though there is nothing physically wrong with him or his eyes; in essence, a person’s mind makes him blind in order to psychologically protect him from unpleasant sights and facts). At the same time, it could also be that a small number of human beings are cognitively defective in some way which prevents them from perceiving or inferring the existence of theistic and/or supernatural entities, much like deaf people form a small percentage of humanity who cannot hear sound due to a cognitive and/or physical defective, but sound nevertheless exists.

And, with all of the above in mind, note that it is also interesting to ask what is more likely if human cognitive faculties are of high reliability in their truth-tracking ability:  1) that most of humanity, both past and present, and with highly reliable truth-tracking cognitive faculties, have been mistaken concerning theism and/or supernaturalism, or 2) that a small percentage of humanity, namely atheistic-naturalists, are cognitively defective and/or in psychological denial concerning the existence of theistic and/or supernatural entities. I suggest that the latter is much more likely than the former, especially if, as mentioned, you believe that evolution created human beings with highly reliable truth-tracking cognitive faculties.

And now, as a very last point, it should also be mentioned that, as a last ditch effort, the atheistic-naturalist could deny the truth of evolution, but such a move comes with problems of such a serious nature for the atheistic-naturalist that it is essentially not possible for the atheistic-naturalist to rationally make such a move.

And so, the long and short of it is this: even though the atheistic-naturalist can object to the dilemma that evolution presents for belief in atheistic-naturalism, the fact remains that the objections that the atheistic-naturalist can mount to this dilemma can not only be countered, but these objections actually raise serious dilemmas of their own. Thus, it seems that whatever way the atheistic-naturalist turns, and whatever way that he objects, evolution still presents a problem for the rationality of belief in atheistic-naturalism.

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Anno Domini 2016 12 18

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma

Within the past generation, one of the most interesting arguments against the rationality of belief in atheistic-naturalism has been Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, or EAAN for short. In essence, Plantinga’s EAAN states that, since unguided “naturalistic” evolution is ultimately only “concerned” with an organism’s survival, and since survival-enhancing behaviors in no way require the possession of true beliefs, and since, furthermore, the number of false and yet still survival-enhancing beliefs vastly outweigh the number of actually true but survival-enhancing beliefs, then this means that if unguided evolution is true, then all human beings have good grounds to doubt the reliability of their cognitive faculties, for it is either very likely that their cognitive faculties are producing false beliefs rather than true ones or they just cannot know which of their beliefs are true and ones are false (and it should be understood here that the term ‘cognitive faculties’ means all of a person’s reasoning ability, sensory inferences, memories, and so on). But now, if human beings have good grounds to doubt the reliability of their cognitive faculties, then they simultaneously have good grounds to doubt any deliverances of those cognitive faculties, such as the deliverance that evolution is true or that atheistic-naturalism is true.  Thus, Plantinga argues, if both evolution and atheistic-naturalism are true, then human beings have good grounds to doubt the truth of anything delivered to them by their own cognitive faculties, including their belief in evolution and atheistic-naturalism, and even belief in simple atheism as well. So this is a potent argument against the rationality of believing atheistic-naturalism.

Now numerous critics have argued against Plantinga’s EAAN, and though Plantinga has responded in detail to many of these critics, the fact remains that such critics still routinely claim that Plantinga is incorrect in asserting that unguided evolution would not lead us to have reliable truth-tracking cognitive faculties. Indeed, for while such critics grant that our perceptions and the beliefs we form from them when combined with our rationality are adapted to behaviors well-suited to survival and reproduction, they argue that this nevertheless still likely involves the formation of beliefs which properly track the truth of states of affairs in the world. Thus, such critics contend that unguided evolution did create us with reliable truth-tracking cognitive faculties; and this does indeed seem to be the only reasonable strategy for the atheistic-naturalist to take in order to salvage the rationality of his belief in atheistic-naturalism given that atheistic-naturalism is, for all intents and purposes, wed to the truth of unguided evolution. And yet, this is precisely where the atheistic-naturalist falls into the teeth of another dilemma which also challenges the rationality of atheistic-naturalism. For even if Plantinga’s critics are totally correct in their critique of the EAAN, and even if the evolutionary process could produce truly and highly reliable cognitive faculties in human beings, even this fact still works against atheistic-naturalism. Why is this the case? Because no matter which way the atheistic-naturalist turns, unguided evolution—and let us simply assume that it is unguided for the sake of argument—nevertheless provides us with a reason to reject atheistic-naturalism itself. And to understand how this could be so, consider this argument:

  1. If evolution is unguided, then the ‘truth-tracking’ reliability of the cognitive faculties within the human beings that this unguided evolutionary process have produced will be either low, or average, and hence inscrutable, or high—or various permutations thereof.
  1. But if the reliability of the cognitive faculties within the human beings that this unguided evolutionary process have produced are either low or inscrutable, then human beings have a defeater for any belief produced by those cognitive faculties, including the belief that atheistic-naturalism is true or rational to hold.
  1. But if the reliability of the cognitive faculties within the human beings that this unguided evolutionary process have produced is high, then human beings have good grounds to believe in the truth of the beliefs produced by those cognitive faculties.
  1. Yet the cognitive faculties within the human beings that this unguided evolutionary process have created have, in both the past and the present, almost universally produced the belief in human beings that atheistic-naturalism is false and that theism and/or supernaturalism is true. Indeed, almost all human beings, both past and present, have held to a theistic and/or supernaturalist worldview of one type or another. And so, if the reliability of the cognitive faculties within the human beings that this unguided evolutionary process have produced is high, then human beings have good grounds to believe that atheistic-naturalism is false and that theistic-supernaturalism is true, for that is precisely the belief that these reliable cognitive faculties have told people, both past and present, is the case.
  1. Therefore, regardless of whether the reliability of the cognitive faculties within the human beings that this unguided evolutionary process have produced is low, inscrutable, or high, it is still the case that human beings have good grounds to believe that atheistic-naturalism is false. And so, this is the dilemma that evolution creates for atheistic-naturalism, and even for atheism in general: namely, if the atheistic-naturalist holds that unguided evolution produced human cognitive faculties of low or inscrutable reliability, then he has every reason to doubt the deliverances of those cognitive faculties, including what they tell him about evolution and atheistic-naturalism. But if the atheistic-naturalist holds that evolution produced cognitive faculties of high ‘truth-tracking’ reliability, then the fact that belief in theism and/or supernaturalism has been almost universally produced in all human beings provides us with good grounds to believe that that particular belief is true and reliable, and hence this is good grounds to believe that atheistic-naturalism is false. And so, regardless of whether the reliability of the cognitive faculties within the human beings that this evolutionary process have produced is low, inscrutable, or high, it is the case that the evolutionary process creates a defeater for atheistic-naturalism.

Also note that a burden of proof consideration comes into play here as well. After all, both the atheistic-naturalist and the theist / supernaturalist are making positive claims, with the latter claiming that gods and/or supernatural entities exist or are rational to believe in and with the former claiming that such entities do not exist or at least are not rational to believe in. However—and here is the key point—if evolution has created human beings with reliable cognitive faculties, and if those cognitive faculties have almost universally created the belief that theism and/or supernaturalism is true, then would it not make sense to start as if theism and/or supernaturalism were true, and atheistic-naturalism false, until and unless shown otherwise. After all, if our cognitive faculties produce reliable ‘truth-tracking’ beliefs, then should we not consider one of the most ubiquitous beliefs that they have produced—namely theism and/or supernaturalism—as true and reliable until shown otherwise. Furthermore, this idea has even more traction when we consider that, in many ways, it parallels arguments for belief in such things as other minds; for indeed, no one puts the burden of proof on the person asserting belief in other minds, but rather the burden of proof is placed on the radical skeptic, and this is done, in large part, because belief in other minds is natural and instinctive, and we consider this belief reliable until shown otherwise, and so until and unless we have reasons to see the belief as false, we hold it to be true. And so the same could thus be said in the case of theism and/or supernaturalism given that it is a belief produced by the same cognitive faculties that produce our belief in the existence of other minds.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  when it comes to the issue of considering what kind of reliability evolution has created human cognitive faculties with, whichever way the atheistic-naturalist turns, he is in trouble. After all, if he considers the reliability of evolution-created human cognitive faculties to be low or inscrutable, then he has reason to reject belief in atheistic-naturalism—along with all his other beliefs given that they have been produced by those same cognitive faculties. But if he considers the reliability of evolution-created human cognitive faculties to be high, then the fact that those reliable ‘truth-tracking’ cognitive faculties have almost universally led human beings to reject atheistic-naturalism, means that this is also a reason to reject atheistic-naturalism. Thus, whichever way the naturalist turns, evolution provides us with a defeater for belief in atheistic-naturalism. And so this is the dilemma that evolution creates for atheistic-naturalism. And while there are objections to this particular dilemma, these will be dealt with in a separate essay.

The evolutionary process has created me with an inclination to ask you for support, and so I am merely a servant to its whims!  Support here:  www.patreon.com/reconquistainitiative

Anno Domini 2016 12 16

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Literal Genesis Days & Billions of Years Harmonized

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Literal Genesis Days & Billions of Years Harmonized

For many years, traditionalist Christians in the West have argued over the days of creation as found in the Genesis text. In opposition to the scientific claim that the world is vastly old, with an existence numbering into the billions of years, so-called Young Earth Creationists generally hold to the idea that the Earth was actually created in six literal days and is only a few thousand years old; not only do they hold to this view, but they argue against other Christians who do not. Indeed, vast quantities of time and effort have been expended in pursuit of this issue. And while it is important to both appreciate and discuss theological differences, it is arguably the case that all that time and effort could have been better spent dealing with such things as the secularization of our culture, the liberal take-over of the media, and so on. Nevertheless, to many Christians, this issue is vitally important, and so, in light of this fact, this short essay endeavors to take on a herculean task: in essence, this essay seeks to show, in a way that is both scripturally faithful and plausible, that a ‘six-day’ view of the creation in Genesis can be completely, directly, and literally harmonized with a creation that actually took billions of years to occur. In doing this, this article hopes to lay to rest the constant debate over the creation-days in Genesis.

Now, the forthcoming solution that will be presented to this problem is, to the best of my knowledge, unique; but if it is not, then that is my error and all credit goes to those who saw this solution first. Nevertheless, the important thing is that this solution truly has the potential to resolve the Genesis ‘days’ issue once and for all. And though some may call this solution contrived, the fact is that it is actually a perfectly plausible and reasonable interpretation of the Genesis text.

So, moving to the solution itself, the first critical thing to note is that in Genesis 1:1 we are told that the Spirit of God was hovering or moving over the waters of the Earth. Furthermore, note that this Earth-bound but Godly perspective is introduced to us before any of the creation days are even mentioned. Thus, it is quite reasonable to accept that the perspective of the Genesis text from the start is not only God’s perspective, but specifically the perspective of God close to the Earth and moving over it. Additionally, in the text itself, there is no other individual there except God, thereby giving us yet more reason to believe that the Genesis text is looking at creation from God’s perspective. And also note that this ‘God’ perspective carries on throughout the rest of the Genesis 1 text. So this is the first point to realize.

Second, it is vital to understand that in the Genesis text specifically, the days of creation are not counted by hours or minutes or by any other human time calculation; rather, a literal and direct reading of the Genesis text shows that a day is only counted as a completed day by the fact that there was the day, then the evening, and then the morning. Thus, in the Genesis text, when read literally, the days are only “days” once there has been a cycle of day, evening, and then morning; the days are not counted by some human time calculation of 24 hours, but rather they are counted by the occurrence of day, then night, then day again. This cannot be stressed enough: the text of Genesis 1, when read literally, shows that the days of Genesis are counted through the physical transition of day to night to day, not through human hours or minutes.

So, with all this in mind, the way to harmonize the idea of six literal days of creation, as the Genesis text describes it, with the scientific evidence that the Earth is billions of years old, is both simple and clear. Remembering that the Genesis narrative, when it locates God, locates Him specifically as moving over the Earth and therefore in direct and close proximity to it, and also remembering that the Genesis narrative is from God’s perspective, then the solution to the Genesis problem becomes the following:  during creation, God simply remained moving in what was essentially “daytime” even while millions of human years passed by, and God only allowed Himself to complete the day-to-night cycle when He wished to do so. In this way, we have one literal Genesis day occurring to God, even though in what we would see as human time, millions or billions of years actually passed. Indeed, the fact that God, as He moved over the Earthly waters, could remain in the daylight phase for as long as He desired to do so is obvious, for He is God, and thus there is no difficulty in accepting that this is a logical possibly.

And note that this is in much the same way that if a person, for example, remained in some of the places on Earth, such as the North Pole, where the sun never sets or never rises for weeks at a time, then even though weeks might pass in actual measured human time, it would still be true to say that that person only experienced one day if a day was being counted as a day-to-night transition rather than as a period of time. So even we, in our own lives, can see how one day, if defined as a day-to-night cycle, could remain as just one day even though much more than 24 hours might pass by in just that “one” day.

Additionally, note that in 2 Peter 3:8 we are told that to God, a day is as a thousand years and, more importantly, a thousand years is also as one day. And while a number of meanings could be drawn from this scriptural passage, it is clear that the “thousand years” is meant more to give the impression of a long period of time than an exact thousand years, and so the point is that this verse lends support to the aforementioned solution to the Genesis problem, for this verse shows that a day to God could be a seen as a very long time to us, and that a very long time to us could be but one day to God, which is precisely what the solution above is claiming.

Note as well that this solution can absorb the fact that the Hebrew word for ‘day’, namely ‘yom’, usually means a period of light and then darkness, such as is experienced by us during one day. Indeed, since this solution agrees that each creation day was only one period of light and darkness—but one period of light and darkness from God’s perspective, which could have been billions of years to us—then this solution is easily able to accept the claim that ‘yom’, in the case of Genesis, is best defined as just one period of light and darkness. And so the word ‘yom’ can be accepted in its most conventional understanding, and yet this solution still works just fine even in that case.

And so we see that when the Genesis “days” are understood as they are literally described in the Genesis text, which means not as being a clear period of human-like time but rather as the completion of an observer-relative day-to-evening-to-morning cycle, and when we understand that the observer in question is a God who would not have to transition through a single one of those cycles for billions of human years if He did not wish to do so, then we can understand that it is actually easy and scripturally reasonable to harmonize six literal God-perspective Genesis creation days with billions of human years.

Finally, it is worth mentioning why God would use billions of years to create the universe and the Earth. Very briefly, Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s nature is seen and understood through His creation. But part of God’s nature is His eternality or everlastingness. Now, a universe that was created billions of years ago—an age almost incomprehensible to us—points to an eternal or everlasting creator much better than a universe which was only created a few thousand years ago. After all, we can easily conceive of some super alien-like entity being able to create a universe that is only a few thousands of years old, but a universe that is billions of years old makes it much easier to picture only an eternal or everlasting God as the possible creator of such a universe.

And so the long and short of it is this: not only can we see that the Genesis text can be literally harmonized with billions of years of Earthly existence, but we can also see that there is a reason why God would use billions of years to achieve His ends. And while the solution presented here will obviously not suit everyone, and while this solution does not resolve every concern with the Genesis text, the fact is that this particular approach to the Genesis issue is indeed a way to plausibly, faithfully, and reasonably reconcile the Genesis text with the scientific claims about the age of the Earth. And achieving even this is no small thing.

Anno Domini 2016 11 12

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.