Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Did Augustine and Aquinas Believe In A Literal Interpretation of Genesis

We got a new comment on a very old post, which I thought I'd respond to with a post in order to make it more likely that people more knowledgeable than I would weigh in. The question is:
Hello,

I see that this is an older post, but some of the comments are recent, so hopefully the OP will see this comment.

Can you provide any sources to document this claim:

"Aquinas and Augustine both seem to agree that it is not only possible but indeed likely that the history and cosmology of Genesis are not literally true."

Thank you and God bless.
On of the reasons that I'm a less interesting blogger these days is that I've gotten more cautious about making big statements without being really, really sure I know what I'm doing. However, pulling together what I think I had in mind, here are a couple notes.

A key phrase in what I said is "the history and cosmology of Genesis are not literally true." Augustine and Aquinas were learned in the natural philosophy of the ancient world, and according to this the cosmology in Genesis was far more obviously primitive than its history. Genesis seems to indicate a basically flat world with a domed sky overhead: God separates the waters and the waters above are called the sky. Ancient natural philosophy had determined that the earth was spherical and developed a detailed model of the orbits of the heavenly bodies around the earth which allowed them to make highly accurate calculations of eclipses, conjunctions, etc.

Augustine is probably the easier call here. In his Confessions, Augustine talks about how he was originally turned off from Christianity by what he saw as the Bible's bad cosmology and by scientific claims put forward by Christians:

In Confessions Book 5, Ch 3-5 he talks about his early flirtation with the Manichees. One of the things that he says consistently held him back was that the Manichees consistently made claims about astronomy which Augustine knew to be untrue. He struggled with how he could believe them in deeper things when they didn't even know this, and he hopes that when one of the famous Manichee teachers comes to town, this fellow will be able to explain it all, but the teacher turns out to be a clever speaker but as ignorant as the rest.

This leads Augustine to make the general observation:
Whenever I hear a brother Christian talk in such a way as to show that he is ignorant of these scientific matters and confuses one thing with another, I listen with patience to his theories and think it no harm to him that he does not know the true facts about material things, provided that he holds no beliefs unworthy of you, O Lord, who are the Creator of them all. The danger lies in thinking that such knowledge is part and parcel of what he must believe to save his soul and in presuming to make obstinate declarations about things of which he knows nothing.

Much of the interesting stuff the Augustine has to say on the topic of reconciling Genesis and science is in his Commentary on the Literal Meaning of Genesis, which is not entirely available online, though here's a good chunk of it. Galileo quoted extensively from this in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina. From that we get:
It is likewise commonly asked what we may believe about the form and shape of the heavens according to the Scriptures, for many contend much about these matters. But with superior prudence our authors have forborne to speak of this, as in no way furthering the student with respect to a blessed life-and, more important still, as taking up much of that time which should be spent in holy exercises. What is it to me whether heaven, like a sphere surrounds the earth on all sides as a mass balanced in the center of the universe, or whether like a dish it merely covers and overcasts the earth? Belief in Scripture is urged rather for the reason we have often mentioned; that is, in order that no one, through ignorance of divine passages, finding anything in our Bibles or hearing anything cited from them of such a nature as may seem to oppose manifest conclusions, should be induced to suspect their truth when they teach, relate, and deliver more profitable matters. Hence let it be said briefly, touching the form of heaven, that our authors knew the truth but the Holy Spirit did not desire that men should learn things that are useful to no one for salvation.
This, I think, basically amounts to saying that the literal cosmology in Genesis is inaccurate, but that that's not the important message, which is what I'd say in regards to the chronology as well.

I haven't read all of Augustine's commentary on Genesis, but he does think through some interesting things that immediate proposed themselves to the ancient mind such as:

How can God create light before he creates a source of light?
How can he create something, yet have it be formless?

He also seems to take an overall approach of "if the description turns out to contradict science, then it was obviously never meant to be taken literally". For example:
38. Let us suppose that in explaining the words, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and light was made,” one man thinks that it was material light that was made, and another that it was spiritual. As to the actual existence of “spiritual light”65 in a spiritual creature, our faith leaves no doubt; as to the existence of material light, celestial or supercelestial, even existing before the heavens, a light which could have been followed by night, there will be nothing in such a supposition contrary to the faith until un-erring truth gives the lie to it. And if that should happen, this teaching was never in Holy Scripture but was an opinion pro-posed by man in his ignorance. On the other hand, if reason should prove that this opinion is unquestionably true, it will still be uncertain whether this sense was intended by the sacred writer when he used the words quoted above, or whether he meant something else no less true. And if the general drift of the passage shows that the sacred writer did not intend this teaching, the other, which he did intend, will not thereby be false; indeed, it will be true and more worth knowing. On the other hand, if the tenor of the words of Scripture does not militate against our taking this teaching as the mind of the writer, we shall still have to enquire whether he could not have meant something else besides.
He also comes back to his point about ignorance of science creating scandal:
39. Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

(Needless to say, I'm kind of a fan of this line of thinking.)

Aquinas is a bit harder to pin down. Obviously, he sees the world as spherical, etc., that was simply a given at his time. But he seems to me less eager to step quickly away from traditional interpretations of scripture than Augustine. (I'd appreciate thought from more accomplished readers of Aquinas than myself.) So, for instance, in Summa I 74.2 he discusses the question of whether the seven days of creation were seven days or one (he describes Augustine as holding that the seven days were actually one day with seven aspects.) He seems to make the case that both of these positions are possible to hold, but perhaps to lean more towards the seven day idea than Augustine's.

In discussing creation in Summa I 65-74, it seems to me that Aquinas is at least open to some level in creativity in how he takes the Genesis creation account to be true. For instance, in Summa 1, Q97 he holds that it was in the nature of man's unfallen body to die (on the theory that mortality is a part of a creature nature and humanity's nature did not change) but that the effect of the unfallen soul upon the body was such that it kept it from dying. In Summa I, Q96, Art. 1 he argues that even before the fall predators still ate meat, killing other animals in order to do so, because the fall would not have changed the nature of predators.

The big philosophical issue which was in play as to the age of the universe in Aquinas's time was whether the material world was without beginning, which Aristotle had held. Obviously, Christianity teaches that the world was created by God, but some Christians argued that the world having always existed was not inconsistent with God having created it, since God is, after all, constantly holding the world in existence through the active exercise of His will. Aquinas did not accept that argument, so in that sense he sided with an account of world history more like that in Genesis, though I'm not clear whether he had a strong opinion as to the age of the world (or whether that mattered.)

I hope that helps and I would strongly encourage those more knowledgeable than me to weight in.

58 comments:

Brandon said...

Aquinas is a very irenic exegete; he tends to accept any interpretation of Scripture as a possible interpretation if he doesn't have a definite philosophical or theological demonstration of its falsehood. One of the things that is very noticeable in his discussion of the six days in the Summa is that a lot of his answers are not put forward as his own, but are simply clarifying the position of prior interpreters (i.e., he often doesn't say X but things like "According to Augustine, X" and "In the opinion of others, like Basil, not X").

Anonymous said...

I was going to say "pleasantly non-committal." Leave it to Brandon to hit upon irenic. Let me add a generic comment beyond Thomas's copacetic style.

This is not really that unusual for Patristic commentary (of which guys like Thomas and Bonaventure are absolutely an extension). It's not that they didn't get their backs up--when it was time to fight, those guys could FIGHT--but the Fathers are pretty much always exposing a spiritual sense of scripture that does not ultimately depend on our squabbles over historicity or "literal interpretation." Read any introduction to any commentary and you'll find them overwhelmingly concerned with how the Psalms, for example, are a compendium of the Gospel and entirely about Jesus. When that's your game, there's just no stake in fighting to the death over whether or not David wrote them sitting on his throne or running from Saul.

I think, if we tend to get the wrong impression about this, it's because of their form. It's just boilerplate for the Fathers when they say "Naturally, X can be nothing other than..." That's not a commitment to a "naive fundamentalism." It's how you start sentences in this genre!

There are certainly times where we could ask if a given interpretation is fatally tied to a bad "literal interpretation," but it's really not very easy to pin any of them down on a bad call that they must defend or abandon.

Rob

Darwin said...

Well, and one of the things that it seems hard for people now to wrap their minds around is that although the fathers tended to implicitly assume something kind of like a literal interpretation to Genesis, I don't think that means that they were committed to it. It's just that the modern obsession with historicism and literalism didn't exist as a factor then.

Gail Finke said...

I love that long quote from the Commentary on Genesis, I'm going to have to read that one...

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Giving you St Thomas Aquinas who in his turn is referring to the position of St Augustine:

Summa Theologica, I Pars, Q 74 on the Six days in general, A 2: Whether all these days are one day?
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1074.htm#article2


I answer that, On this question Augustine differs from other expositors. His opinion is that all the days that are called seven, are one day represented in a sevenfold aspect (Gen. ad lit. iv, 22; De Civ. Dei xi, 9; Ad Orosium xxvi); while others consider there were seven distinct days, not one only. ... For Augustine understands by the word "day," the knowledge in the mind of the angels, and hence, according to him, the first day denotes their knowledge of the first of the Divine works, the second day their knowledge of the second work, and similarly with the rest.

In other words, St Augustine was pretty lonesome in not taking the six days in a straightforward literary sense. And in any other respect he agrees with the rest, except for taking the first creation as ... well, St Thomas continues:

First, because Augustine takes the earth and the water as first created, to signify matter totally without form; but the making of the firmament, the gathering of the waters, and the appearing of dry land, to denote the impression of forms upon corporeal matter. But other holy writers take the earth and the water, as first created, to signify the elements of the universe themselves existing under the proper forms, and the works that follow to mean some sort of distinction in bodies previously existing, as also has been shown (67, 1,4; 69, 1).

Secondly, some writers hold that plants and animals were produced actually in the work of the six days; Augustine, that they were produced potentially. Now the opinion of Augustine, that the works of the six days were simultaneous, is consistent with either view of the mode of production. For the other writers agree with him that in the first production of things matter existed under the substantial form of the elements, and agree with him also that in the first instituting of the world animals and plants did not exist actually. There remains, however, a difference as to four points; since, according to the latter, there was a time, after the production of creatures, in which light did not exist, the firmament had not been formed, and the earth was still covered by the waters, nor had the heavenly bodies been formed, which is the fourth difference; which are not consistent with Augustine's explanation. In order, therefore, to be impartial, we must meet the arguments of either side.


In other words, Patristic leave us with:

* everything created in one moment some thousand years ago
OR
* everything created in six literal days some thousand years ago

BUT NO
* gap theory
NOR ANY
* day age theory
AND DO NOT EVEN THINK OF
* not historical in intent at all.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Genesis seems to indicate a basically flat world with a domed sky overhead: God separates the waters and the waters above are called the sky. Ancient natural philosophy had determined that the earth was spherical and developed a detailed model of the orbits of the heavenly bodies around the earth which allowed them to make highly accurate calculations of eclipses, conjunctions, etc.

If you go to St Augustine, you will see very fine proof why Genesis cosmology does not include flatness of earth.

As for separation of waters, I have some doubts whether those above the firmament are really H2O or possibly H2 (hydrogen clearly not falling within the vocabulary, and it being describable as "instant water, just add air and a spark"). Here is a link to 4 articles about the firmament:

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1068.htm

The "dome" form of the sky and the "spreading out as a skin" are, in St Augustine's view, both consistent with each other and with geocentric round earth cosmology. His likeness makes me think of us seeing heaven as the inside of a socker ball seen from the middle of interior.

Darwin said...

In other words, Patristic leave us with:

* everything created in one moment some thousand years ago
OR
* everything created in six literal days some thousand years ago

BUT NO
* gap theory
NOR ANY
* day age theory
AND DO NOT EVEN THINK OF
* not historical in intent at all.


I think that ends up being a misreading of the Patristic writers in that they weren't dealing with how to reconcile Genesis with scientific evidence pointing strongly towards an old earth -- they were dealing with reconciling Genesis with ancient philosophy and with other parts of revelation. For instance, Augustine is in part trying to reconcile the seven day creation account with other references in the Bible to "the day" on which God created the world.

This doesn't, however, mean that given the understanding that we have now of the history of the earth and the universe that the Fathers would have insisted on a literalist interpretation. Indeed, I think arguably quite the opposite.

Darwin said...

If you go to St Augustine, you will see very fine proof why Genesis cosmology does not include flatness of earth.

He reconciles the Genesis account with the science of his day. I don't think that necessarily indicates that the authors of Genesis didn't envision of flat earth. Actually, it kind of reads like they did. But as Augustine argues, that doesn't really matter, because God didn't necessarily aim to enlighten man beyond his current scientific understanding via the Bible. Rather, God was getting at more important realities than the physical design of the universe.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

I think that ends up being a misreading of the Patristic writers in that they weren't dealing with how to reconcile Genesis with scientific evidence pointing strongly towards an old earth

There is none such.

For instance, Augustine is in part trying to reconcile the seven day creation account with other references in the Bible to "the day" on which God created the world.

Very true. I think 1909 solved that for him, yôm can mean a monger period of time than 24 h. But one-moment creation cannot be a heresy.

This doesn't, however, mean that given the understanding that we have now of the history of the earth and the universe

You assume there is for one thing a we of which you are part and for another that the Church Fathers watching us from Heaven are part of it too.

For another thing you assume or even presume that this group we has gained a kind of understanding which was absent both to Church Father and to Hagiographer Moses with his sources.

But as Augustine argues, that doesn't really matter, because God didn't necessarily aim to enlighten man beyond his current scientific understanding via the Bible.

If you read the passage carefully, you will find he would not have said "doesn't really matter".

FIRST he set off giving the interpretation of the descriptions which he thought mattered most ... Rather, God was getting at more important realities than the physical design of the universe, as you say.

THEN he added that the literalists must have their due as well.

That even on the level of spiritually unimportant detail God's word is inerrant.

Now, there is another thing in the context than just the interpretation of yôm.

Marc 10:6.

Sure, if you say each of the creation days was actually a bit more than a week, day one was eight days Sunday to Sunday, day two Monday to Monday ... you would demonstrably be in error, but you would be covered by the decision of 1909. But if you say that any single day or each and all of them together was longer than all history between Adam and Jesus - or even "comparable to it" as you say - you are in trouble.

Also please to remember that Our Lord gave the Apostles a Crash Course of OT exegesis between Resurrection and Ascension. Holy Ghost is since Pentecost to End of Time not revealing anything new, only reminding of what Our Lord already said.

This covers both all Christological and Mariological reading of Allegoric sense (Christ New Adam, BVM or Church depending on context New Eve), but also the admission of the literal sense of any historical book as literally true.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Since you mentioned "evidence for an old earth" (old as in millions or billions of years rather than less than 10.000, which is pretty old too), I have to, following the recommendation of St Augustine, show the futility of that interpretation of the evidence.

I give you first message of a series dealing with Geological evidence:

Creation vs. Evolution : Three Meanings of Chronological Labels
creavsevolu.blogspot.com/2013/12/three-meanings-of-chronological-labels.html


I give you from a message series against Mark Shea and David Palm the first of relevant messages, when it comes to radioactive dating methods:

New blog on the kid : Quarterlife is a Bad Term
nov9blogg9.blogspot.com/2014/01/quarterlife-is-bad-term.html


It is labelled 5a, the messages 5b and c deal with same question.

Then we have supposed evidence for an "old" universe (same caveat for the word old as above), which would include Distant Starlight problem, which was the very reason I became a Geocentric:

Triviū, Quadriviū, 7 cætera : Distant Starlight Problem - Answered by Geocentrism
triv7quadriv.blogspot.com/2012/11/distant-starlight-problem-answered-by.html


Three is enough for today, come back to me if you have further queries about the evidence matter!

Darwin said...

Hans-Georg Lundahl,

I have looked through you links, and I have to say that I find these arguments for geocentrism and young earth to be extremely unpersuasive.

I'm sure these are put together by people who have a devout belief in God, and as Augustine says that is, for them, after all the most important thing. But in terms of an accurate understanding of our physical world these are just really, really bad.

Banshee said...

As it happens, quite a lot of other Fathers also supported the idea that the seven days were not literal days. But Aquinas didn't have those Fathers to quote. Our library of available patristic works is vastly bigger than his.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Calling the bluff: which ones?

Plus, of those not supporting six literal days, is there any who is not into St Augustine's one-moment creation?

Is there any who would make the creation longer than recorded history afterwards?

Otherwise we still have a Patristic consensus for Young Earth Creationism.

One preliminary note: Philo, Origen, Clement are not the issue. Philo was a Jew of whom we do not know if he died Christian or not (no great evidence he did).

Origen was condemned by V Ecumenical Council.

Clement was, if any, decanonised due to Photius - of all people - considering him involved in heresy.

So, they are merely indirect witness to local tradition in Alexandria, not direct witness to the Holy Tradition of the Church.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

That was @ Banshee, now @ Darwin:

I have looked through you links, and I have to say that I find these arguments for geocentrism and young earth to be extremely unpersuasive.

I'm sure these are put together by people who have a devout belief in God, and as Augustine says that is, for them, after all the most important thing.


Did you just say them?

Each one of the links is by myself. I have more than one blog, you see. But you were not reading far enough to see each article was signed by me.

But in terms of an accurate understanding of our physical world these are just really, really bad.

Two points:

I am not claiming to give an accurate understanding of Evolutionism's or Heliocentrism-Acentrism's version of the physical world. I am claiming to give ARGUMENT that it is that version which is inaccurate.

Since you missed that point as well as attributing the articles to different authors, I think I can safely conclude that your reading was too sloppy for me to bother if you think my articles are really, really bad.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

And where does St Augustine even say that for anyone "that is the most important thing"?

Darwin said...

Hans-Georg Lundahl,

You're right that I basically skimmed your links, though they do all have your characteristic writing style, so I'm not really sure why I used the plural in responding to you later. I probably just wasn't thinking about it all that much.

I am not claiming to give an accurate understanding of Evolutionism's or Heliocentrism-Acentrism's version of the physical world. I am claiming to give ARGUMENT that it is that version which is inaccurate.

First of all, let's be clear: The is only one version of the physical world, the one that God created and we live in. There is not one version which matches the findings of modern science and another which you describe, both you and modern science are attempting to describe the same world. Both descriptions are imperfect, but yours is far more so, in part because it's based on much more indirect observation (more on that in a moment.)

Now, being clear on that, the reason that I basically just skimmed your pieces is that if the thing being argued for is wrong enough, there's not a point in putting excessive time into evaluating the argument itself. The point you argue for in the linked articles (and the nested links within them) are:

- That estimating the distance of stars using parallax only works if we assume a non-geocentric model for the solar system
- That if we arbitrarily assume that the amount of radioactive isotopes (carbon 14, etc) in the atmosphere is always changing, we can't base dating on radioactive decay
- That we never find multiple layers of fossils from different time period above one another (and that even if we did it wouldn't matter)
- That the number of stars and galaxies only indicates a large universe if we assume that they aren't little tiny mini stars and galaxies

And so on...

Now, I find these things that you're arguing for sufficiently unconvincing that it's not greatly material to me how clever your arguments are. The thing being argued for itself is so far from being true that I don't see a lot of point in engaging deeply. And even then, I don't see the arguments themselves as being particularly good. For instance, here's your argument that the geologic period do not actually describe ages in which different types of creatures lived:

Darwin said...


First meaning of names like Permian or Jurassic, like Cretaceous or Palaeocene is of course a time in the past as supposed by the Evolutionists.

Second meaning is layers of rock. Such a layer - maybe thousand wharves or maybe without wharves or maybe a dried out lake or ... - is from Permian, another layer is from Triassic above it, and above that you get Jurassic, above that Cretaceous, above that Palaeocene on same location. This is verifiable now, and it is the Geological Meaning of the word.

Third meaning is fauna and flora. Such a beast is from Permian only, such a one died out in late Permian, such another arose in Cretaceous. Fossils are found in layers belonging to one of these time labels. This is the Palaeontological Meaning of each such word.

Only, there is a discrepancy between Palaeontological and Geological meaning. In the Geological sense any place has rocks from very many of these times on top of each other. In the Palaeontological sense, fossils found on one location are pretty uniformly from one and same time label.

I already proved this preliminary by sorting the time labels from diverse fossil sites from a list taken on wikipedia.

Now I have gone through about one hundred and twenty five or thirty fossil species on palaeocritti site. No, let's wait. South Africa, Brazil, Arizona are ready, but there is so much more. And each is incomplete in original documentation of palaeocritti site, or most of them are. Antarctica, Zimbabwe, although ready too are very small as far as number of species on palaeocritti site is concerned. As for Tanzania I have just got started. Some of the species or genera already covered are also represented in UK and Ireland, which I have not started. I have though made the only contribution that needs to be made for Ireland.


Now, this post has a worse case of not-a-native-English-speaker than some of yours (not that I'm a big one to criticize, as I couldn't do as well in French as you do in English) but if I understand right you're trying to argue that while an area might show layers of rock representing multiple geologic eras, one only finds fossils from one geologic era in a given place, and so it's wrong to think that the groups of animals classified as belonging to different eras actually did.

While you may think that you have proved this via Palaeocritti and Wikipedia, the fact is that there are a number of cases in which you can find different types of fossils from different period in layers of rock within the same area. I did this myself, in a small way, as a youth in California. But for one of the more spectacular examples, check out the Grand Canyon, in which fossils ranging from the Precambrian to the Paleozoic can be found:

http://www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/fossils.htm

The thing is, actual scientific argument is not like internet argument. Finding one example online source and refuting it on certain basic terms does not do the job. The real question is what we actually find out there in the world, and what we find out there is such that it support the old earth evolutionary account of the world quite well.

Darwin said...

"I'm sure these are put together by people who have a devout belief in God, and as Augustine says that is, for them, after all the most important thing."

And where does St Augustine even say that for anyone "that is the most important thing"?


In the post that you're currently commenting on, I included two quotes from Augustine. In one of these from Confessions he says:

Whenever I hear a brother Christian talk in such a way as to show that he is ignorant of these scientific matters and confuses one thing with another, I listen with patience to his theories and think it no harm to him that he does not know the true facts about material things, provided that he holds no beliefs unworthy of you, O Lord, who are the Creator of them all. The danger lies in thinking that such knowledge is part and parcel of what he must believe to save his soul and in presuming to make obstinate declarations about things of which he knows nothing.

In another from his Commentary on Genesis he says:

What is it to me whether heaven, like a sphere surrounds the earth on all sides as a mass balanced in the center of the universe, or whether like a dish it merely covers and overcasts the earth?

The gist I take from both of these is that Augustine is not greatly concerned if Christians hold erroneous scientific opinions, so long as their theological beliefs are sound, because he considers scientific wisdom (in and of itself) to be of no real value in regards to salvation. He reinforces this saying:

Hence let it be said briefly, touching the form of heaven, that our authors knew the truth but the Holy Spirit did not desire that men should learn things that are useful to no one for salvation.

This, again, is part of why I'm not super urgent to fight out some of these scientific critiques that you're trying to make. It would be a lot of work because one can make an error if far fewer words than it takes to correct the error. And on the one hand, I think it would be of limited use in that I assume you have reached this novel set of beliefs for a reason and hold to them fairly hard, and on the other hand I know that your arguments will not cause me to:

- Decide that Christianity is false because it endorses a false conception of the history of the world
- Decide that the physical world is only 6000 years old
- Decide that Catholicism is a false form of Christianity because it demand false understandings of history

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

- That estimating the distance of stars using parallax only works if we assume a non-geocentric model for the solar system

For universe as a whole. No one has to my knowledge ever argued a geocentric model for the solar system only.


Theoretically the parallax from earth could be independently verified or falsified from Mars, but it has so far not been tried as far as I know.

- That the number of stars and galaxies only indicates a large universe if we assume that they aren't little tiny mini stars and galaxies

Which are perfectly feasible UNLESS you assume they must have starte the process of fusion by self ignition which must imply a critical mass higher than Jupiter's since Jupiter did not self ignite so far.

If we believe there is a God and He created angels, self ignition is expendible. And tiny stars feasible.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

- That if we arbitrarily assume that the amount of radioactive isotopes (carbon 14, etc) in the atmosphere is always changing, we can't base dating on radioactive decay

There is a level of C14 at which decay and new formation of C14 balance out in a constant or fairly so percentage of C as a whole. For a YEC scenario it is not arbitrary to assume there might be a build up phase which we only recently passed or have not yet passed.

- That we never find multiple layers of fossils from different time period above one another (and that even if we did it wouldn't matter.

... the fact is that there are a number of cases in which you can find different types of fossils from different period in layers of rock within the same area.


Within same area and on top of each other are two different things.

On top of each other does occur, but is fairly rare. Grand Canyon and California la Baja would be the two cases, in the latter one you can with Flood Geology say first were "Mesozoic" dinos buried, then shellfish flooded in abaove them, then these were buried too.

Shellfish are not very easy to identify by zoological species as Palaeocene or Miocene.

For GC I think the vast majority of periods covered in it are also - shellfish (I recall ammonites: buckhorn shells as I would have called them).

If you can point out a bad construction in the English, I will, as a Swede (I am not French and French is my fourth language while English is my third), see what I can do about it - unless it is your feeling for grammar is too modern, too set in short sentences and the jargon of your own set.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

radioactive isotopes (carbon 14, etc) in the atmosphere

What radioactive isotope in the atmosphere except carbon 14 do you use as a dating method?

Carbon 13 is not used.

The method involving argon has been tested in lava covering tree trunks datable by - carbon 14, and pretty accurately so, since recently covered with lava - and it has been found faulty.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

The real question is what we actually find out there in the world

Oh excuse me, I forgot!

Wikipedia is of course run by Creationists!

Palaeocritti - the old site as distinct from my back up! - is of course also run by creationists.

Not a chance either of these sites actually informs me about anything of what was really found by people digging in the field!

If that is so, why do you offer me another site which could also be run by secret creationists!

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

If you can point out a bad construction in the English - I said - but I found one which you with your background, not as "native English speaker" vs foreigner but simply with your cultural baggage could find objectionable.

"The method involving argon has been tested in lava covering tree trunks datable by - carbon 14, and pretty accurately so, since recently covered with lava - and it has been found faulty."

Now, to show you what I am trying to do with the English language (and would be doing in my native Swedish as well), I will put this in a narrative.

"The method involving argon has been tested in lava covering tree trunks datable by ..." said HGL. He paused briefly to raise expectations and when resuming held the voice a bit higher for emphasis: "... carbon 14, and pretty accurately so, since recently covered with lava ..." (now he resumed normal tone to mark parenthesis as over) "... and it has been found faulty."

Thereby "he" managed to convey both that potassium argon method had been found faulty as tested by carbon 14, and why it is that carbon 14 should take precedence over potassium argon.

I suppose this kind of sentence building is what your English teacher would have discouraged you from. It is not what Karl May, C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien (?), plus a few Latin authors, plus Boswell's life of Dr Johnson and Gulliver's travels in original and a few more, plus Swedish examples you would not know about would have discouraged me from. Nor did they actually do so.

Darwin said...

"- That estimating the distance of stars using parallax only works if we assume a non-geocentric model for the solar system"

For universe as a whole. No one has to my knowledge ever argued a geocentric model for the solar system only.


I said "for the solar system" while being aware that what you're arguing for is a geocentric model of the universe AND the solar system because it's the geocentric model of the solar system which is more at issue: Does the Earth orbit the Sun or the Sun orbit the Earth?

A geocentric model of the solar system is one of those things which I think one can only maintain at this point by becoming very selective in one's relation to reality. There were observations being made back at Galileo's time that were already making the geocentric models of the time hard to sustain. At this point, when we've sent robot probes to fly by or land on many of the major objects in the solar system, I think we have really good working evidence for the accepted model of the solar system, which is why those who deny it also tend to get off into suggesting that various space flights have been faked by NASA and the other space agencies around the world.

Also, while you're right that if the Earth is stationary, then the observation of parallax can't be used as evidence for the distance of stars, the problem you run into then is to explain why we see parallax effects at all.

The reason, however, why I spoke of the geocentric solar system rather than the geocentric universe is that while it's very clear what's being argued about in regards to the geocentric and heliocentric models of the solar system, given the Theory of Relativity there's a sense in which the point where we are IS the center of the universe. So while I'm quite ready to argue that a geocentric (as in, Sun and planets going around the Earth) model of the solar system is dead wrong, I'm not invested in making an argument against the Earth being the center of the universe.

Darwin said...

Within same area and on top of each other are two different things.

On top of each other does occur, but is fairly rare. Grand Canyon and California la Baja would be the two cases, in the latter one you can with Flood Geology say first were "Mesozoic" dinos buried, then shellfish flooded in abaove them, then these were buried too.

Shellfish are not very easy to identify by zoological species as Palaeocene or Miocene.

For GC I think the vast majority of periods covered in it are also - shellfish (I recall ammonites: buckhorn shells as I would have called them).


I'm not entirely clear what you're trying to argue here.

What I took your post to be arguing this that we seldom see fossil sequences (as in, one later of rock, with fossils, above another layer of rock from an earlier period, also with fossils) and also that each species is only found in one place (suggesting that what's being seen is locality and not period specific.)

Both of these are wrong. There are a number of areas around the world in which one can find strata from different periods, though the Grand Canyon is unique in that it has in one place exposed layers chronicling about half the span of life on earth.

However, it's also common to find the same species in many different places around the world. Indeed, that's one of the ways that geologists identify rock strata. Very common fossils called "index fossils" are used to data strata in different areas around the world. Because sedimentary rock is pretty much always laid down under water (which is why fossils of land animals are comparatively rare: they mostly just from when a land animal's body ends up in a lake or river where it can be buried under sediment), and because invertibrates are simply much more common numerically speaking that vertibrates, these tend to be "unexciting" kinds of species such as shell fish, coral, trilobites, etc.

The problem with your approach with Palaeocritti and Wikipedia is two-fold:

- Often works written for ordinary readers only list the most spectacular or complete finds of a species, not all the finds of any sort.
- You appear to be looking primarily at large vertibrate species of which there aren't a whole lot of examples, so it's hardly surprising if most of them come from one area where the conditions for members of that species ending up being fossilized happened to be better than elsewhere.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

I tried to answer, did not post.

Was I blocked?

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

No, had forgotten to log in.

Now, for the specifics.

A geocentric model of the solar system is one of those things which I think one can only maintain at this point by becoming very selective in one's relation to reality. There were observations being made back at Galileo's time that were already making the geocentric models of the time hard to sustain. At this point, when we've sent robot probes to fly by or land on many of the major objects in the solar system, I think we have really good working evidence for the accepted model of the solar system, which is why those who deny it also tend to get off into suggesting that various space flights have been faked by NASA and the other space agencies around the world.

Tend to. Perhaps. Need to - not sure yet. I have tried to ask on two different occasions, once in Catholic Forums (that was what I was banned for) and once from a French Astronomer what is the exact proof that the space probes have "seen from us" described the zig zags that heliocentrism would predict.

Also, much of what might be thinking of can be dealt with simply by assuming a Tychonian Model. It leaves the Earth as centre of the Universe, of Moon, Sun, Stars, but in its turn Sun as centre of Venus and Jupiter and so on.

The observations of Galileo were hopelessly inadequate to prove his point unless by assuming (contrary to our faith) only pure mechanics as sole possible cause of movements.

Darwin said...

If you can point out a bad construction in the English, I will, as a Swede (I am not French and French is my fourth language while English is my third), see what I can do about it - unless it is your feeling for grammar is too modern, too set in short sentences and the jargon of your own set.
...
If you can point out a bad construction in the English - I said - but I found one which you with your background, not as "native English speaker" vs foreigner but simply with your cultural baggage could find objectionable.


Again, my apologies. I saw that your Creation vs. Evolution blog had a French sidebar, and in your post on parallax you mentioned a more complete version in French, so I assumed -- quite wrongly it seems. Color me even more impressed. The max of my linguistic ability is some very rustic Latin and Greek (which I sadly have not kept up since college) and some smatterings of Spanish and Russian which are really too little to talk about. I've never had the fluency in any other language you have in English.

That said, since you asked what I meant about English construction:

First meaning of names like Permian or Jurassic, like Cretaceous or Palaeocene is of course a time in the past as supposed by the Evolutionists.

In this kind of construction, you would typically use a direct article with "first meaning". Thus: "The first meaning..."

"Like" is an acceptable usage, though it might be more idiomatic in this case to say "such as".

Then things get a little tangled up with the commas in your descriptive clauses: "like Permian or Jurassic, like Cretaceous or Palaeocene"

Finally, tacking on "as supposed by the Evolutionists" at the end is a little bit less clear than it could be.

A more idiomatic English construction of the whole would be: "The first meaning of names such as Permian, Jurassic, Cretaceous, or Palaeocene, is a period of time -- at least, according to the conception of history endorsed by Evolutionists."

Darwin said...

A slightly trickier example is:

Second meaning is layers of rock. Such a layer - maybe thousand wharves or maybe without wharves or maybe a dried out lake or ... - is from Permian, another layer is from Triassic above it, and above that you get Jurassic, above that Cretaceous, above that Palaeocene on same location. This is verifiable now, and it is the Geological Meaning of the word.

Again we have the issue with the direct article, but here we run into problems with the use of the verb "is". While "The second meaning is layers of rock" a clearer construction (since the meaning itself is not layers of rock) would be: "The second meaning of the terms refers to layers of rock."

Then we have some vocabulary issues. I'm not sure what you mean by "wharves" here. Looking it up, an older meaning of "warf" is a river bank or the shore of the sea, but even so it's not clear what "thousand wharves" would refer to. Regardless, we need an article or clause between "maybe" and "thousand". Let's just crop the clause you've got inside the dashes and get at the main part of the sentence: "Such a layer is from Permian, another layer is from Triassic above it, and above that you get Jurassic, above that Cretaceous, above that Palaeocene on same location." Here I understand what you're saying, though again there are some article missing "from the Permian", etc. and "on the same location."

Now the key section:

Only, there is a discrepancy between Palaeontological and Geological meaning. In the Geological sense any place has rocks from very many of these times on top of each other. In the Palaeontological sense, fossils found on one location are pretty uniformly from one and same time label.

The second and third sentences are pretty confusing. I think that what you're saying might be: "While, in a given location, we often find many layers of rock, representing a sequence of geologic ages, we usually only find fossils from a single geologic era in any given location."

My suggested wording is based on the assumption that you're trying to create an apposition in which you're claiming that although it is common to find layers of rock from many geologic eras in the same place, it is rare to find fossils in more than one of those layers. However, I'm not entirely sure that I'm getting your meaning right, as the phasing is non-idiomatic.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Your assumption was correct, that was my meaning.

I mean also a very narrow space by "same place". I had prepared some answering before seeing yours, ehre goes:

Also, while you're right that if the Earth is stationary, then the observation of parallax can't be used as evidence for the distance of stars, the problem you run into then is to explain why we see parallax effects at all.

I do not consider them parallax effects. If stars are moved by the angels and thos of all lesser stars admire the one of the Sun (for Joshua, Hezekiah, Calvary, Fatima in 1917, and simply being so close to Our Lord and Our Lady - King and Queen of all angels) they would perhaps want to "dance in time with it".

So, since I am no atheist, I see no problem explaining, I will not say "the parallax effect" but rather "the phenomenon known as parallax to Heliocentrics".

Now, let us get to the fossils, though they are less refreshing than angels!


What I took your post to be arguing this that we seldom see fossil sequences (as in, one later of rock, with fossils, above another layer of rock from an earlier period, also with fossils) and also ...

So far you are right.

If by fossil sequence we limit us to fossils lying literally on top of each other, you dig ten feet into the ground and find a layer of Jurassic dinos, and then ten feet deeper same hole straight down you find Trilobites, while in between top and Jurassic you had a little bone tip which you then proceed to excavate and you find a Palaeocene Smilax, well, in that sense I think fossil sequences are very close to non-extant.

The exception of GC is marine fauna and invertebrates, nearly up to top. The exception of Baja California (or whereever the thing I comprehended happened, if it did so anywhere) can be explained as first Flood with mud covering Cretaceous type dinos, Ceratopsians, then Flood water bringing in lots of Decapods (shrimps and crayfish) which are dated as Palaeocene because they are one layer above the Cretacous "dated" fossils. The exception of Yacoraite (insofar as I could get any answer from online sources, got none from mailing the question to a university fo Buenos Aires) seems to me to be about the same fauna in both Palaeocene and Cretaceous layers, quite a few snails, but they are "differentiated" by a layer of whatever that .... Cesium it was ... that came with the meteorite in/near Yucatán.

I sorted the fossil sites from wikipedian list into further lists, as given ...

How do Fossils Superpose?

... where my first link is simply to my source article on wiki, but my other links go to the sublists I made. Left column pure major and minor divisions, three links, mid column mixed minor divisions within pure major ones, right column with only one link we get to a very short list of places overlapping the three major divisions:

Mixed or Unspecified (according to Wikipedia, List of Fossil Sites)

Hilda is crossed out as being - I checked and got a straight answer - not just purely Mesozoic but even purely Cretaceous, it was not just mentioned when I went through the wiki list.

I have looked at each of the few places that remain in some detail, thanks to internet.

...that each species is only found in one place (suggesting that what's being seen is locality and not period specific.)

I never ever stated "that each species is only found in one place" at all. You seem to have a fondness for interpreting my arguments in the way that best suit your refutation.

BBS.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Far from each species being always found in only one place (that happens too when there is only one fossil), the reason why I do not consider the species "era specific" is that I instead consider them specific for differnet kinds of biotopes.

If you take the desert fox, contemporaneous to us, and the elk also contemporaneous to us, outside a zoo (and even there), you will hardly find a place on earth for finding both of them.

To my mind Cretaceous land fauna is coastline fauna of pre-Flood world. Here is the post dealing with this aspect in greater detail:

Searching for the Cretaceous Fauna (with appendix on Karoo, Beaufort)

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

The problem with your approach with Palaeocritti and Wikipedia is two-fold:

- Often works written for ordinary readers only list the most spectacular or complete finds of a species, not all the finds of any sort.


Neither of them are works once and for all written for ordinary readers, but palaeocritti used to be regularly updated and wiki is a continuous work in progress that can get more and more learned as long as no administrator deletes due to:

- suspected breach of neutrality
- giving own research
- not giving sources
- breach of copyright.

From wiki I did not get any list of such and such a fossil has been found there, but a list of where the fossil sites are and what times they are attributed to.

Palaeocritti specifically tells how many specimens, where holotype was found, and some other specialised knowledge, including the one of how complete skeleton was.

As to second problem, I think I have tended to answer that already. Invertebrates tend to be less easy to make very secure and typical index fossils of.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

While waiting for your reply:

1) I feel reassured about my English, it may not be idiomatic in your particular subculture of it (scientists, teachers of sciences ...) but it is to mine, or close to. If my name had been Algernon, I am not sure you would have spotted English is not my native language. I accept "such as" is a real improvement on "like".

You owe Medieval Latin for that one. In Classic Latin you would not say "tales quales" but "ut" and in Swedish "som" sounds less stilted than "sådana som".

2) I had to rewrite an answer that was lost due to bug and missed on saying that index fossils are a circular way of proving differnet epochs. It is logically faulty.

Say that in Karoo Moschops is only found in the Permian assemblage zones. "Horizon: Lower Tapinocephalus assemblage zone, Lower Beaufort beds, Middle Permian (Earliest Capitanian)."

Next assemblage zone or other kind of field with lots of fossils digs anywhere else in the world where you find a Moschops, if you do, you will declare it is from Middle Permian, or even Earliest Capitanian.

And if the real reason for finding no Moschops along with Ceratopsians (Cretaceous, just like Tyrannosaurs) is they were before the Flood a rare kind, found only in that one place? While Ceratopsians, though not rare, where not going there?

What in your methodology allows you to find such an eventuality out?

By the way, did you go off and start listing Lagerstätten? That would have been or would be a reasonable reaction.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Clarification on wharves

I was seeking for a word meaning thin strata (lithological sense).

Not strata wide enough to include any fossils, but rather so thin there are several decades or hundreds of them visible on a rock wall at the same height as that of a fossil which presumably is within "a stratum" (palaeontological sense).

Darwin said...

1) I feel reassured about my English, it may not be idiomatic in your particular subculture of it (scientists, teachers of sciences ...) but it is to mine, or close to. If my name had been Algernon, I am not sure you would have spotted English is not my native language. I accept "such as" is a real improvement on "like".

The main give-away to watch for is the use of articles, which is tricky in English. In Latin you basically never have articles. In Greek you always have articles. In English we sometimes use articles (the, a, etc.) and sometimes don't, and while there are formal rules for it's easy for non-native speakers to drop them while native speakers virtually never do.

Clarification on wharves

I was seeking for a word meaning thin strata (lithological sense).

Not strata wide enough to include any fossils, but rather so thin there are several decades or hundreds of them visible on a rock wall at the same height as that of a fossil which presumably is within "a stratum" (palaeontological sense).


You might just try "layers". One often speaks of "layers of sediment" or "layers of rock", though of course "stratum" works fine too and sounds more technical.

Darwin said...

From wiki I did not get any list of such and such a fossil has been found there, but a list of where the fossil sites are and what times they are attributed to.

Palaeocritti specifically tells how many specimens, where holotype was found, and some other specialised knowledge, including the one of how complete skeleton was.


The issue is, there's really no way of know if Wikipedia and Palaeocritti actually have all the finds of a species, or just most or some of them. I think that examined exhaustively the theory that what are believed to be geologic eras actually represents different areas of the same era is not persuasive. There's simply too much that makes sense if we think of the geologic eras as actual eras, from the apparent development of forms over time to genetic evidence in surviving species, etc. John Paul II was right when he observed:

"Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory."

As to second problem, I think I have tended to answer that already. Invertebrates tend to be less easy to make very secure and typical index fossils of.

That's simply not the case, though. Index fossils are virtually all invertebrates. It is not, indeed, hard for paleontologists to tell the difference between different species of invertebrates (that's how they came to be identified as different species) and because they are so plentiful and so widely found they make very good index fossils.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Article: In my ears "Jews are money conscious" and "The Jews are money conscious" are equally correct. Or even a preference for the former. But then I have read more Latin than Greek.

You might just try "layers". One often speaks of "layers of sediment" or "layers of rock", though of course "stratum" works fine too and sounds more technical.

I am quite aware of the usage. I wanted to promote a more precise one. If a stratum or layer is one or two millimetres thick, it is one thing. If it can be accurately seen contrasting from other layers only by stepping back, it is quite another thing.

THe former is never assumed to be "the Permian layer in this rock" and it is only of the latter that you can say "the Jurassic layer in this rock contains vertebrate fossils".

My point in the article is that for each rock that vertically has ten layers of the larger kind, one of them will be found to have vertebrate fossils, while other ones are empty or full of shellfish. Nearly always. And apparent exceptions are nearly always a matter of ...

Standing in the Triassic and looking back in time towards the Permian at Dinosaur National Monument, Utah. Photo by Brian Switek.

And that is what I base my argument on.

Darwin said...

Tend to. Perhaps. Need to - not sure yet. I have tried to ask on two different occasions, once in Catholic Forums (that was what I was banned for) and once from a French Astronomer what is the exact proof that the space probes have "seen from us" described the zig zags that heliocentrism would predict.

Also, much of what might be thinking of can be dealt with simply by assuming a Tychonian Model. It leaves the Earth as centre of the Universe, of Moon, Sun, Stars, but in its turn Sun as centre of Venus and Jupiter and so on.


There are multiple ways in which our observations and experiences at this point disprove a geocentric model of the solar system, but the biggie is that when Newton's universal laws of motion came along, they could explain how the heliocentric model of the solar system worked (the Sun's gravity holds the planets in their orbits, the planets' gravity holds their moons in orbit, etc.) There is not a set of universal laws of motion which explains how a geocentric solar system works. And the fact that we can send space probes through the solar system using calculations which assume that the Law of Gravity works (and that it is responsible for the way that objects move in the solar system) tends to validate that this is indeed a good descriptive model of the real universe. (Relativity corrects certain elements of the Newtonian system, but when it comes to sending something like the Voyager spacecraft through the solar system you can pretty much assume Newton and get away with it.)

The observations of Galileo were hopelessly inadequate to prove his point unless by assuming (contrary to our faith) only pure mechanics as sole possible cause of movements.

Actually, even without assuming that the motion of astronomical bodies is strictly a result of mechanics, Galileo did not have good enough observations to prove his points. And some of the points he argued were actually already out of date and not in good keeping with the evidence. (He argued for a heliocentric solar system with perfectly circular orbits, rather than recognizing that Kepler was right in arguing that the motions observed were better accounted for by elliptical orbits.) Indeed, both Kepler's model and Tycho's model were, in a sense, cleaner, in that they dispensed with epicycles, which Galileo had to include.

However, where you're wrong is in saying that there's something contrary to the faith in assuming that the astronomical bodies move in a "mechanistic" fashion. There is nothing contrary to the faith in saying that the way the stars and planets move is the result of gravity. To say that God did not create the universe would be contrary to the faith, to say that He does not constantly hold it in existence by his active creative will would be contrary to the faith. But it is in no way contrary to the faith to say that our rational God has created a physical universe which behaves in predictable ways according to physical laws.

Indeed, it is the very predictability of physical laws which makes the exceptions to them (miracles, such as the Resurrection) miraculous.

Darwin said...

I do not consider them parallax effects. If stars are moved by the angels and thos of all lesser stars admire the one of the Sun (for Joshua, Hezekiah, Calvary, Fatima in 1917, and simply being so close to Our Lord and Our Lady - King and Queen of all angels) they would perhaps want to "dance in time with it".

So, since I am no atheist, I see no problem explaining, I will not say "the parallax effect" but rather "the phenomenon known as parallax to Heliocentrics".


And at that point, we move out of the ability to have an argument about scientific issues. Science deals with predictable, physical actions. If you're willing to simply assert that parallax is a miracle, then we can't really discuss it.

Darwin said...

Article: In my ears "Jews are money conscious" and "The Jews are money conscious" are equally correct. Or even a preference for the former. But then I have read more Latin than Greek.

In English these constructions would both work, though they would have slightly different connotations: the former suggests you are talking about many individuals who share the characteristic of being Jewish while the latter talks about "the Jews" as some sort of unified group.

The point where the use of the article becomes more key is... Well, actually, I just realized that sentence opening is a great example. The proper English construction would be "The point where the use of the article" while depending on his linguistic background many non-native English speakers would naturally say "Point where the use of article" instead.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Biggie first:

the biggie is that when Newton's universal laws of motion came along, they could explain how the heliocentric model of the solar system worked (the Sun's gravity holds the planets in their orbits, the planets' gravity holds their moons in orbit, etc.) There is not a set of universal laws of motion which explains how a geocentric solar system works.

If I hold a pen above the ground, you can predict where it will fall first if I drop it.

If I do not drop the pen, but write with it, you can not predict where it will be a moment hence, unless I am drawing a very regular pattern with it.

Newton never actually refuted the theory that stars and planets are moved by angels whom God put in charge of the luminaries (both selfshining like sun and fixed stars and reflecting like moon, "planets" - in modern terminology excepting earth - and comets).

If you are an atheist your rfutation tehreof is "oh, come on, that doesn't exist". What is your refutation as a Christian?

I have none.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

However, where you're wrong is in saying that there's something contrary to the faith in assuming that the astronomical bodies move in a "mechanistic" fashion. There is nothing contrary to the faith in saying that the way the stars and planets move is the result of gravity.

It is contrary to the faith to say that this is the only possible explanation of any and every movement on the scale of a body surrounded by space larger than the probes that also have jet propulsion, and that therefore a correct model of the universe would need to assume only mechanistic causes of movements.

Here is the point where I think we ought to take a look at theology on what a Catholic Christian should assume of God as Creator and active Providence:

Responding to Miller, Staying with Father Murphy's God, part 1

Since it is "part 1" you will know there are other parts, I link to all four of them in each uppermost part of a post and to the next one in the three non-final ones at the bottom.

Enjoy the reading.

As for a very minor point "point is" vs "the point is", I have been among IB students where "point is" was considered acceptable ellipsis or sloppiness.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

But it is in no way contrary to the faith to say that our rational God has created a physical universe which behaves in predictable ways according to physical laws.

Indeed, it is the very predictability of physical laws which makes the exceptions to them (miracles, such as the Resurrection) miraculous.


Angelic movers for stars and planets do not make the universe non-predictable generally speaking.

They do give a very easy explanation for occasions where non-predictality has occurred - if for instance recently the face on the moon was observed as rotating 90% to herald the Antichrist is here, or in a less controversial vein, when the angel of the Sun, in obedience to his Creator:

1) stood still over Joshua's battle (along with the Moon)

2) went back ten lines on the sundial of King Hezekiah

3) went dark over Calvary

4) danced over Fatima in Portugal in 1917.

But if angels are good dancers, and have a good choreographer, their moves are as predictable generally speaking as purely mechanistic causes. However, they would not predict mechanistic impossibility of Geocentrism. Or parallax being absolutely parallactic. Or any burning star having self ignited and needing therefore a mass of hydrogen superior to that of Jupiter. In other words, they do not predict a very vast universe which gives, with a finite speed of light, a distant starlight argument against the revealed Chronology (a universe that started less than 200 hours before the first human observer).

Darwin said...

It is contrary to the faith to say that this is the only possible explanation of any and every movement on the scale of a body surrounded by space larger than the probes that also have jet propulsion, and that therefore a correct model of the universe would need to assume only mechanistic causes of movements.

It is contrary to the faith to say that events can only ever be explained by physical forces and objects, on the theory that only physical objects and forces exist. However, it is not contrary to the faith to say that any given physical system is explainable in strictly physical terms.

I can't prove that you're wrong that the stars and planets are actually moved about by angels who just happen to act in all observable terms as if they were following the laws of motion -- with the exception of rare miraculous occurrences which we call miraculous precisely because they are not explicable in physical terms -- but that's no reason for me to believe your angelic explanation. A mechanistic account of the solar system allows me to understand and predict everything I could need to know about it in physical terms, and in that regard in scientific terms its a perfectly good explanation.

And honestly, at that point, I'm not sure why there's any point in discussing any of this. Why, for instance, do you bother to try to come up with arguments as to how the fossil record could be explained by regions and floods. They could, after all, be the result of angels writing in the rocks.

And really, at that point, I think it's clear that this conversation has become futile, so I won't be participating in it further.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

It is contrary to the faith to say that events can only ever be explained by physical forces and objects, on the theory that only physical objects and forces exist. However, it is not contrary to the faith to say that any given physical system is explainable in strictly physical terms.

Including the human body?

I think not.

And remember. A pen's internal working may be explained in strictly physical and chemical terms, but where it is drawn and what letters it writes cannot be explained in such terms.

I can't prove that you're wrong that the stars and planets are actually moved about by angels who just happen to act in all observable terms as if they were following the laws of motion -- [exceptis exceptandis] -- but that's no reason for me to believe your angelic explanation.

Maybe Job and Baruch is a reason to believe it?

Job 38, I think, Baruch 3.

A mechanistic account of the solar system allows me to understand and predict everything I could need to know about it in physical terms, and in that regard in scientific terms its a perfectly good explanation.

Except insofar as it is not working when tested (NASA did a relevant test with 15 orbits of each waterdrop, medium, in conditions parallelling the gravitation+inertia model for planetary orbits).

And except insofar as instead of believing God created Heaven less than two hundred hours before Adam, you think he did so millions of years earlier.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Can you count how many orbits the water droplet makes before getting caught on knitting needle?

It is not the same video as the one where I counted 10 - 20 (medium 15) orbits. It has a more detailed explanation.

Astronaut specifically mentions satellites going round planets, but the gravitational explanation is the same as for planets going around sun.

Count the orbits, then ask yourself if an analogy to this experiment could account for 4.5 billion orbits around any centre attracting in any way at a diustance.

hadlock : Water Droplets in Orbit around Knitting Needle on the ISS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky7wIj1aeOo


Astronaut Don Pettit aboard the ISS charges a knitting needle with static electricity and then puts water droplets "in orbit" around it. The mechanics are similar to an object orbiting a cylindrical planet, but in this case the attracting force is static electricity, not gravity.

Maybe angelic movers can do a better job than blind forces? Hmm?

Now for Scripture reference:

JOB - Chapter 38 : 7

When the morning stars praised me together, and all the sons of God made a joyful melody?

Seems kind of parallelling "morning stars" (a title apt for at least Venus and Mercury) with "sons of God" (known from elsewhere to mean angels). What does the comment say?

Ver. 7. Sons. Septuagint, "all my angels." Hence it appears that the angels were among the first of God's works, formed probably at the same time with the heavens, (Calmet) or light, Genesis i. 3. (Haydock) --- The praise of the stars is figurative, (Calmet) as they tend to raise our hearts to God by their beauty, (Haydock) whereas that of the angels is real. (Calmet)

Calmet made his comment in 1707 (and Haydock extracts from it), but earlier commentators might not agree, and even Haydock (1859!) seems to have inserted an explanation he did not find in Calmet. Earlier commentators like Tirinus or St Robert Bellarmine or St Thomas Aquinas just theoretically might have disagreed.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

BARUCH - Chapter 3 : 33 - 35

33 He that sendeth forth light, and it goeth: and hath called it, and it obeyeth him with trembling.

34 And the stars have given light in their watches, and rejoiced:

35 They were called, and they said: Here we are: and with cheerfulness they have shined forth to him that made them.


Looks to me as if perhaps either the stars were angelic beings or represented such, like for instance their angelic movers.

Ver. 33. Trembling. The sun stops, goes back, or withdraws its light, at his command, Josue x. 12., and 4 Kings xx. 9., Matthew xxvii. 45., and Job xxxvi. 30.

Ver. 34. Watches. They are like his soldiers, Judges v. 20., and Ecclesiasticus xliii. 12. (Calmet)


Here Calmet is getting closer to what I feel about the matter. Now for some Medieval lore right?

Capitulum VII / ex Stephani II Tempier episcopi Parisiensis condempnacionibus
Errores de intelligentia uel angelo


•12 (77) [Twelfth error in this chapter/77th in original list]. Quod si esset aliqua substantia separata que non moueret aliquid corpus in hoc mundo sensibili, non clauderetur in uniuerso.~~

[My footnote:] ~~Unum est ergo dicere angelos esse motores rerum uisibilium prout res uisibiles moti sint, aliud et erroneum dicere eos esse motores rerum uisibilium inquantum sint ipsi angeli in uniuerso. Per "claudi" intellige francogallicum "être inclus".

•25 (212). Quod intelligentia sola uoluntate mouet celum.

[footnote] 25 (212) - Deus enim est qui sola uoluntate mouet totum celum.

Capitulum VIII / ibidem
Errores de anima uel intellectu


•1 (7). Quod intellectus non est actus corporis, nisi sicut nauta nauis, nec est perfectio essentialis hominis.*

•2 (8). Quod intellectus, quando uult, induit corpus, et quando non uult, non induit.**

•3 (13). Quod ex sensitiuo et intellectiuo in homine non fit unum per essentiam, nisi sicut ex intelligentia et orbe, hoc est unum per operationem.***

* Quamuis inter corpus et intellectum parum est similitudo quam quod dicatur ita intellectum esse actum corporis ita se habentem, tamen dormente corpore torpet intellectus, nisi in somniis, et corpus habet animam sibi unitam sicut actum que in homine et est intellectus. Secundum uigorem et torporem set etiam secundum diuersum ingenium melius aut peius intelligimus. Nullo modo corpus est subiectum adequatum passiuum cuius actiuum esset aliud subiectum, anima. Ita homo unus est et intellectus essentialis eius perfectio, non accidens aliud perfectum.
** Iter in planitie astralis ut dicunt mystagogi ergo est illusio, et normaliter diabolica.
*** Vide distinctionem: intelligentia uel angelus et orbis forsitan fiunt unum per operationem, sicut nauta et nauis, set certe non ut forma et materia, ut actus uiuus uiui corporis, set aliter est de unitate hominis, quia anima et corpus humanum sunt unum precise ut actus uiui corporis et hoc corpus uiuum, et certe non solum per operationem sicut nauta et nauis. Anima sensitiua per uoluntatem uel nutum appetiti regit membra motu mobiles quoad motum set non ita regit neque distat a membris uitales, set uegetatiue est eorum actus. Et hec anima est sensitiua sicut et uegetatiua et quidem etiam intellectiua in homine, set anime animalium irrationalium, id est sine intellectu, sunt et sensitiue neque autem intellectiue. Intellectus ergo non est aliud quiddam quam anima, quamuis sit inter eos distinctio rationum nominandi.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Capitulum XII / ibidem
Errores de celo et stellis


•1 (92). Quod corpora celestia mouentur a principio intrinseco*, quod est anima ; et quod mouentur per animam et per uirtutem appetitiuam, sicut animal. Sicut enim animal appetens mouetur, ita et celum.**

•3 (102). Quod anima celi est intelligentia, et orbes celestes non sunt instrumenta intelligentiarum set organa, sicut auris et oculus sunt organa uirtutis sensitiue.

*Hec fuit prima positio aquinatis, set emendauit credendo, sicut restat licitum intelligentia mouens esse principium extrinsecum habens orbes ut instrumenta, non ut organa. **Appetens enim deum qui tunc esset primus mouens solum inquantum summum bonum desideratum et non actiue, quod falsum est.

And now some St Thomas Aquinas (in English):

Neglected Angelology in the Angelic Doctor

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

This last link was in English (just in case your Latin is rusty).

It was also to St Thomas Aquinas.

I think you will have to count him pretty definitely out as support for ideas of God creating a self contained physical universe understandable on merely physical terms in each phenomenon.

The lack of flexibility in your English which made mine seem more odd to you than it is (apart from the possible question of what the word "wharves" means in English, have not yet looked up in OED recently) might damn you as a sufficiently good reader to be giving St Augustine's meaning, as well.

Oh, you did look up my references to St Thomas' angelology, didn't you?

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

And as some of my understanding of St Augustine goes through English, which is not my native language, as you have liked to point out, with some gentleness, here is Andrew Sibley's take on St Augustine:

CMI : Creationism and millennialism among the Church Fathers
by Andrew Sibley
http://creation.com/creation-millennium-church-fathers


Do not get me wrong. I do not endorse his rejection of the LXX, though it is less brazen than it used to be.

Obviously not only St Augustine but also St Jerome thought (at times at least) the LXX was more accurate. His chronology uses same method as Ussher's and is based on LXX rather than on the Vulgate he made. It is still in use in the Catholic Church every Christmas, except for those dioceses that since 1994 accept the "unknown ages" novelty.

As to St Thomas Aquinas, he combined the One-Moment creation of St Ausgustine with the Six Day creation (literally) of other Church Fathers. Adam was created in his seminal nature in the first moment, but in a fullgrown material body less than two hundred hours later, on the literal Sixth Day, and obviously I hold with St Thomas Aquinas here.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Do you recall these words, which I can charitably have some little hope you spoke in haste:

I can't prove that you're wrong that the stars and planets are actually moved about by angels who just happen to act in all observable terms as if they were following the laws of motion -- with the exception of rare miraculous occurrences which we call miraculous precisely because they are not explicable in physical terms -- but that's no reason for me to believe your angelic explanation. A mechanistic account of the solar system allows me to understand and predict everything I could need to know about it in physical terms, and in that regard in scientific terms its a perfectly good explanation.

For one thing, astronomers are all the time getting at new ideas to explain details about stars and planets not moving according to predictions mae by applying "laws of motion". This is indeed the main source of new ideas in astronomy, one of the latest harvests being exo-planets, not just the directly observed ones but a very much greater number.

But there is another thing to it too. There is a kind of premade quip I have heard before to this. Behind it is the idea, quite false, that if we cannot explain ALL in exclusively naturalistic terms, if we do admit ANY non-naturalistic explanation (and an angel moving a star is to a Christian less naturalistic than a man moving a pen), there would be no point in explaining ANYTHING AT ALL in naturalistic terms.

I do believe God made secondary causes real causes.
http://nov9blogg9.blogspot.fr/2013/12/proximate-causes-are-not-always.html


Including purely corporeal ones. It is just that I think that among created causes the spirits have precedence over matter. It reminds me of another dialogue I had with a man who seemed to be purporting to be a Catholic, I will first link to where I saved our debate, and then copy the relevant part of it:

Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : ... to Unbalanced Anti-YEC priest (?) and his defenders, part I
http://assortedretorts.blogspot.com/2013/10/to-unbalanced-anti-yec-priest-and-his.html

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Copy of dialogue, most relevant part:

Akita538

No, no, no. What you said was that angels moved the stars in just such a way as to *exactly* match the parallax changes predicted by heliocentrism.

Given the non-trivial number of stars involved, that would be strong evidence of deliberate and calculated deception.

Hans-Georg Lundahl

You speak as if God's Veracity involved a duty to a set of people set out on interpreting such and such a phenomenon wrongly and atheistically to prevent that set from getting any way with their false premise at all.

As for the rest, I copied out relevant parts of earlier dialogue from the blog post.

You: "The fact that the earth is orbiting the sun is revealed by parallax in observations of the fixed stars."

Me: "Based on assumption the so called parallax is not a proper movement - which it could be if each star was moved by its angel. "

You: "The 'proper movement' would have to be exactly calculated to deceive observers on the earth."

Me: "It would not be exactly calculated to deceive observers on earth, except if they had a clear reason to believe the stars did not move on their own.

But since Geocentrism is the default and common sense interpretation of our daily observations, and it involves stars moving daily around us, we would have no such reason.

It is calculated exactly to make an obnoxious minority deceive itself by introducing a false premiss."

Maybe clearer:
by the false premise they introduce.

Akita538

I'm saying calculating hypocrisy involving angels is still calculating hypocrisy. : )

Hans-Georg Lundahl

Calculating a course of action justified in itself (like angels dancing in time with the Sun while holding their stars) does not become hypocrisy because one can also calculate the fact that x, y and z are going to get it wrong and use it as proof of an error.

For instance, God and the angels knew perfectly well how Astrologers would take Venus in the Virgo part of the Zodiak seen from Earth, yet the fact that Astrology is wrong does not make God and the angels hypocrites just because Venus is sometimes in Virgo.

Why should they owe more to "modern science" than to superstition? What if modern science (on this level, not those relevant for building cars or computers) is a superstition?

Darwin said...

As I've said before: I see no point in discussing these issues with you given your priors. The Church has accepted the teaching of the heliocentric model of the solar system as fact since 1820.

Pius XII, John Paul II and Benedict XVI all wrote about how not only the "old earth" understanding of natural history enjoyed great scientific support, but how the evolutionary account of biological history did as well -- and how it is not incompatible with the faith. I see no reason to think that the other recent popes have believed differently, and I remain confident that just as Augustine and Aquinas adopted the cosmology which was the best science of their day (with a round earth rather than a flat one) they would if presented with modern science be among the great majority of educated Catholics who see no conflict between the faith and the findings of modern cosmology and biology -- not among the few cranks who insist on supporting an overly literal view of Genesis no matter what bizarre glosses on the scientific evidence are needed to make it appear to work.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Darwin said...

Hans-Georg,

In case it's not obvious from this morning's clean sweep, I've decided not to let you use my comment boxes to air your opinions further. All further comments will be deleted.

I try to allow a wide range of opinion here, but I don't think there's any point in maintaining conversation with someone who thinks that our most recent popes are probably anti-popes, goes off on bizarre rants about "Illuminati Jew bankers", etc.

I hope that, in time, God's grace will help to bring you closer to the source of all Truth, which is Christ.

HGL said...

Oh, btw, how do you feel about Hornerstown Formation?

The Hornerstown Formation is a Paleogene or latest Mesozoic geologic formation.[1] The age of these deposits have been controversial. While most fossils are of animals types known from the earliest Cenozoic era, several fossils of otherwise exclusively Cretaceous age have been found. These include remains of the shark Squalicorax, the teleost fish Enchodus, several species of ammonite, and marine lizards referred to the genus Mosasaurus. Some of these remains show signs of severe abrasion and erosion, however, implying that they are probably re-worked from older deposits. Most of these fossils are restricted to the lowest point in the formation, one rich in fossils and known as the Main Fossiliferous Layer, or MFL. Other explanations for the out-of-place fossils in the MFL is that they represent a time-averaged assemblage that built up and remained unburied during a time of low sediment deposition, or that they were stirred up from deeper in the sediment and deposited together during a tsunami.[2]

Does very much NOT sound as if the Cretaceous beasts had been found at a deeper level than the Palaeogene ones.

Because in that case they would not be groping for explanations like that.

Unless of course those words were like a trap for me to see if I would fall for it. I mean, on wikipedia that is technically possible and some people agreeing with you would have a motive.

Just another little fossil find, which I do not think is supporting your story. You can of course say "gotcha, were you stupid enough to believe a wiki" ....

Hans The Swede said...

varve (plural varves)
1.(geology) An annual layer of sediment or sedimentary rock.

Etymology
From Swedish varv (“layer”).
Note, the Swedish word is actually spelled hvarf up to 1906.

I knew there was an English word, but I did not knew it was a loan from Swedish, I thought it was a cognate. wharf (plural wharves or wharfs) seems to be used like an alternative meaning of hvarf, since it is also used as the place where a ship is being built, a dock in English I think.

Note further that:
a) the word layer is clumsy since also used for much thicker things made up of many varves, like the palaeocene layer of a rock (whether it is called so because found with palaeocene type fauna or because found above a layer with cretaceous type fauna but without, usually, fossils itself, if so found);
b) in Swedish hvarf/varv is used for the thinner thing and lager (cognate of layer) for the thicker thing only;
c) in Swedish the word per se does not imply they are formed one each year, since a common word of the language, unlike the English terminus technicus which has so to speak an Old Age argument in its very technical definition.

Hans-Georg aus Wien said...

I quoted your comment on this thread on my blogpost:

HGL's F.B. writings : Diverging slightly from Sungenis
http://hglsfbwritings.blogspot.fr/2014/04/diverging-slightly-from-sungenis.html