Continuing the discussion from [Tim Keller is not an Evolutionary Creationist]

Continuing the discussion from Tim Keller is not an Evolutionary Creationist:


I subscribe to a YEC position. So do you think that i am stupid do you?

No, just uninformed, and suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect. You have an over-inflated estimation of your opinion on subjects concerning which you know very little.

I attend a church in America that is “YEC” and is bursting at its seams and is planting churches and has many really smart people of faith in attendance.

I am sure it is, and I am sure there are many really smart people of faith in attendance. Really smart people who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old.

Maybe you, Mr. Burke need to have a chat with God to tell Him that perhaps His written word about how he created the universe needs to go.

No. I am not telling Him anything. You are the one looking at the Book of His Words (the Bible), interpreting it your way (totally heedless of the way that it was written to the original audience), and completely ignoring the Book of His Works (the natural creation He left us which helps us understand what He has done in the past). God literally left a physical record of creation written in the earth itself, and you’re ignoring it.

Meanwhile, you speak of “the simplicity of the Biblical model put forth by God”, but your interpretation is anything but simple. The amount of editing you have to do to the text to make it agree with your beliefs is extraordinary. Once you’ve finished chopping it up, the text looks like this.

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About days, mornings and evenings…

Earth’s morning has long since passed and its day nearly spent. Its evening will be over when the bright Morning Star returns.

Maybe you and @Greg can figure out between you which of you has the one true interpretation of Genesis 1, then you can get back to me.

(I’m agreeing with you, btw.)

@greg of course has the one true interpretation of Genesis 1 and every other chapter and verse of the bible he carries to church with him on Sunday. :sunglasses:


I honestly don’t understand what you mean when you bring words like “demonstrably reflect reality” into a debate about which epistemology we should use to study what reality is. This is putting the cart before the horse.

It’s not putting the cart before the horse. As I have explained (several times), epistemologies can be tested. If they are completely untestable we can discard them out of hand. If they are tested and they fail, we can discard them. If we test them and they pass, then we can use them.

Previously, I asked you to define terms like this (i.e. what do you think “facts” are), but you then accused me of playing word games, which is not a dialogic response at all.

I think it is a dialogic response. It’s just frustrating for you because I am not interested in abandoning the original topic for a different topic.

If we want to continue in this discussion, then you have to explain to me what you mean by a “demonstration”…

I have already explained this. I told you what I meant by a demonstration; explanatory power and makes accurate predictions. This was in one of my first posts in this exchange.

…and why your definition of a demonstration is one which everyone has to accept.

Oh you don’t have to accept that as a demonstration of reality at all, if you don’t want to. But you will need to come up with a good explanation of why you won’t accept it. If you’re an epistemological relativist (as you seem to be), them I I guess you don’t care which epistemology is used, as long as it gets the results people want.

There are certain metrics we can use, but they’re not completely model independent.

Finally you agree there are some metrics we can use. So what if they aren’t completely model independent?

I believe in an old Earth and all the mainstream conclusions of physics, but that’s because I accept the starting presuppositions of empirical science: for example, that natural laws and order exist in the world, and that they have always existed in this way (such that we can make inferences about the past). I cannot demonstrate this scientifically nor logically, as Hume famously pointed several hundred years ago.

There are multiple lines of scientific evidence indicating that they have always existed in the past. Remember these are not just funny ideas people invented and then decided to use without actually ever testing them. They are not presuppositions. They are conclusions people arrived at as a result of a lengthy and rigorous application of the scientific method, even in the face if immense resistance from people who did have presuppositions.

These are not just assumptions, or mere presuppositions; they are conclusions which have been tested and shown both persistent resistance to falsification, as well as accurate predictions. They are not presuppositions. This is why scientists don’t concern themselves with Hume when they do science; he can stay in philosophy class, while scientists get on with reality.

In other words, I craft the basic beliefs of my personal epistemology based on a combination of personal intuition and internal consistency.

So you don’t ever actually base your basic beliefs on anything like the scientific method, or any kind of metrics? You just go on gut feelings and hunches?

In principle, there is nothing to prevent me from rejecting the belief that other minds exist, for example. You cannot say that such a position is at odds with “reality”, because that would assume that these minds actually exist in reality.

I can say that it is completely at odds with what we can verifiably observe accurately about the reality of other minds. This being the case, your rejection of other minds would be irrational.

Why does a YEC have to accept your metrics? Because these metrics are “part of reality”? How do you know what is reality?

I have explained this earlier in my post.

Again, if God is part of reality, then the theologian does deal with facts about God.

Please stop changing the subject. The subject is not “whether theologians deal with facts about God”. The subject is “whether theologians are authorities on reality”. What you’re saying sounds like this.

  1. Theologians study God.
  2. God is part of reality.
  3. Therefore theologians are authorities on reality, and consequently the best people to consult on all matters pertaining to reality (scientists go home).

If that’s what you think, walk me through the logic, because that’s logically dislocated (non sequitur). If it isn’t what you think, feel free to correct me.

The theologian might not be an authority on science (that would be best left to scientists), but the theologian is an authority on things relating to God, such as his nature and revelation.

The theologian is an authority on textual and historical sources on which theology is based. The theologian is not an authority on God’s nature, or on God’s revelation. You seem to vastly over-estimate the extent of the theologian’s knowledge. This is how I see it.

  1. Facts about texts and other historical artifacts. Theologians can become authoritative on these facts with a high degree of certainty.
  2. Facts about what texts and other historical artifacts were intended to mean by their writers and creators. Theologians can become authoritative on these facts with a relatively high degree of certainty.
  3. Facts about what texts and other historical artifacts tell us about God. Theologians can become authoritative on these facts with a reasonable degree of certainty.
  4. Facts about God (not interpretations of texts and other historical artifacts which tell us about God). Theologians are not authoritative on this subject at all. Here we are firmly in the realm of opinion.

If theologians have authoritative knowledge about language, history, etc., what prohibits them from logically reasoning from this knowledge to conclusions about God and His actions in the world? Why would such conclusions constitute mere “opinion”?

Nothing is preventing them from performing such reasoning. But their conclusions remain opinion unless they are verifiable. Some theologians tell us, on the basis of many Bible verses, that God has a physical body, and it’s the same size as ours. No matter how many Bible verses they throw at us, this is nothing more than opinion.

Also I would say many theological conclusions are “falsifiable”, at least no less than conclusions in history or other non-scientific fields are. For example, a theologian argues for the Trinity by interpreting the biblical “data”. If someone finds verses in the Bible which could be interpreted otherwise, that could potentially falsify that conclusion.

Yes. This is why there’s a general scholarly consensus that the Trinity was not known to either the original Hebrews or to the first century Christians, and was instead a theological invention cobbled together after several centuries of theological squabbling and attempting to find a “best fit” between various theologians’ unverifiable opinions about God.

The existence of bad or dogmatic theologians doesn’t destroy the overall legitimacy of theology as an academic enterprise, anymore than the existence of bad scientists and bad science damages the legitimacy of science.

Why do you keep trying to change the subject? The subject is not “whether theology is a legitimate academic exercise”, the subject is “whether theologians are authorities on reality”. If they were, then we could go to them on any subject about reality and they would give us authoritative answers. But they are not.

Additionally, I gave those examples specifically to demonstrate that when theologians try to be authorities on reality, they typically fail dismally. They need to stay in their lane. When YEC theologians try to tell us about the universe and the age of the earth, we know to ignore them because they are speaking from a position of ignorance, not authority.

There are also scientists who are dogmatic and refuse to change their beliefs even in the light of new evidence. Why can’t the sometimes dogmatic, sometimes evolving views of theologians be considered in a similar light?

They can.

Secondly, even if there is change, there is a lot of evidence that there are certain things regarded as consensus among theologians. For example, most Christian theologians who accept the Bible as authoritative, divine revelation agree that God is a Trinity. This has been true for at least 1700 years.

And as I mentioned, there’s a general consensus that the Trinity was not what the original Christians believed, and that Christ did not consider himself to be God. So we have a clash of authority; Christ and the first Christians on the one hand, and theologians (supposed “authorities on reality”), on the other hand. Who to believe? People like Christ himself, or several centuries of bickering theologians trying to enforce a belief in theological gibberish?

Theologians to this day cannot agree on how the Trinity is supposed to work, and every time they try they just make more things up. Please do let me know how theologians verify the nature of God’s hypostases, or validate a “Social Trinity” model as opposed to a “Positive Mysterian” view or a “Temporal Parts Monotheism” view. Do they put God under a microscope? Take samples? Do blood tests?

No, but this is a completely irrelevant and baffling question. When I study physics I consult physicists. When I study God I consult theologians. In both cases, I’m trying to study reality.

Thank you. Two points then.

  1. Theologians are not authorities on reality, or you would not need to consult physicists. You could just consult theologians.
  2. To use your words, “There is no justification to put this arbitrary differentiation between natural science and theology”. True or false?

Begging the question?


How is it begging the question to test something to see if it works?

This presumes an epistemology, which was not itself tested.


Who says it wasn’t tested?

Jonathan, it seems that you did not read the entirety of my post before writing your responses, leading you to launch a line-by-line critique of what I wrote, which severely misrepresents and misreads my views. (And in fact is incoherent, if you really think I both believe theologians are authorities on all reality and are not authorities.) Next time, read the whole thing and try to triangulate what I actually believe. I’m sorry if my writing is not crystal clear.

The first thing that I ask is to avoid pigeonholing me into some predefined categories of who I am and what I believe. You barely know me nor my background. You’ve done that a lot in the few interactions we’ve had so far, calling me an “epistemological relativist”, someone who doesn’t believe in the scientific revolution, who thinks scientists don’t know much, and so on. All of these are offensive characterizations which severely misrepresent what I really believe. They bring us nowhere in the discussion.

I. Verificationism

I will now try to get into the heart of our disagreement. It seems that you believe the following:

  1. For a proposition P to be a fact, it must be verifiable.
  2. To verify a proposition P means to “observe accurately” that it is true.

Some comments:
a) Proposition 1 is basically a form of verificationism or logical positivism, very popular in the mid-20th century but now mostly abandoned by philosophers. The problem with this view: how can we verify the truth of proposition 1? I.e., how can we verify that propositions can only be facts if they are verifiable?

To be clear: I’m not asking whether one can use 1) to obtain more facts about the world. That would be a form of applying proposition 1). Instead, I’m talking about how one can verify that what one obtains with proposition 1) are actually true facts.

b) The next problem is with your definition of verification. How do you define an accurate observation? Today, most observations in science are theory-laden. For example, you cannot “see” black holes directly - you can only infer their presence through their effects on surrounding matter.

II. Criteria for Superior Epistemologies

I had a written up a long reply to this, but I think it’s better to focus on part I first about verificationism, which is more central to our disagreement.

III. Side Comments: What does being an “authority on reality” mean?

By your definition of what an authority of reality is, neither theologians nor scientists are authorities on reality. Neither of them can speak authoritatively on any (i.e. all) subject about reality. Scientists can only speak about science, or knowledge about things in the natural world. Theologians can only speak about theology, or knowledge about God. Thus, your definition of “authority of reality” is not very useful.

You misunderstand the “arbitrary differentiation” to which I am referring to. It seems to me that you believe scientists have authority to speak about what science studies (nature), but you believe that theologians don’t have authority to speak about what theology studies (God). This is the odd differentiation I’m referring to. I can understand your viewpoint if you were an atheist, but not if you claim to be a theist. But of course, this seems to stem from your verificationism, so we should focus on that first.

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I read it twice. The fact that I broke it up does not mean I read line by line.

Yes, that’s why I am only commenting on what I know about you from what you actually write. For example, when you tell me that you think theologians are authorities on reality, I assume you mean they are authorities on reality. Apparently now you want to qualify that somewhat?

The difference between you and I is that I keep providing you with statements like “It seems you think… correct me if I’m wrong”, whereas you just make assumptiosn about what I write, without giving me the same courtesy in exchange. Yes I think you’re an epistemological relativist. Feel free to demonstrate otherwise.

I didn’t say anything like that. Please get offended at what I actually write.

Step one. Characterize the scientific method as an unrelated outdated nineteenth century philosophy, so you can promptly abandon it. Sorry, no. This is not about verificationism.

So what? We see the influence of the black hole. That’s a direct observation; we are seeing the effect directly. The fact that we infer the presence of a black hole as an explanation does not mean that our observation of the effect wasn’t accurate.

You’re a physicist. Why are you writing as if you don’t know how the scientific method works, or as if scientists are just making things up and have no way of verifying anything? You complain about my conclusions about what you believe. You might consider that my conclusions about what you believe are based on what you consistently write. You have persistently rejected the idea that a YEC viewpoint may be demonstrably falsified, or that any statement about nature can be validated. What am I supposed to conclude?

Yes. This is why scientists don’t claim to be authorities on reality. They rightly claim to have testable models of reality. And as the saying goes, “All models are wrong, but some models are useful”.

Why not?

Is it going to be more YEC apologetics? If so, I am uninterested.

I wrote “speak authoritatively”. You have swapped this for “have authority to speak about”. I don’t know about you, but to me these are completely different statements. It would help if you read the step by step explanation I gave of my view on this topic, and let me know which parts were unclear.

To make your view clear, if a theologian says that God is made of fifteen parts with seven different colors, and they are ten beings but one being, and seven persons who are no persons, then do you believe them or not? If not, why not? They’re an authority on facts about God, right? Do their statements require any validation at all?

So this is the approach to science I’m finding at Peaceful Science.

  1. Christians don’t need to accept evolution, because evolution might not be true. There is no metric to know if it is true or not, so rejecting it on theological grounds is not only valid but intellectually honest if it’s ok with your feelings.

  2. Scientists think they have metrics to know if evolution is true. In reality they don’t. They are just looking at the same evidence as other people, but coming to different conclusions because they have a different epistemology. Science “facts” are just based on scientists’ presuppositions.

  3. Epistemologies are untestable and unfalsifiable. Everyone just selects the one they want. Epistemologies are all valid, even though they might result in different conclusions. The conclusions are all valid too, even if they are mutually exclusive.

This all just sounds like typical Ken Ham stuff. How are your ideas different to Ken Ham’s?

@dga471 perhaps it would help to remind you of what this is about. This is where it started.

  1. Can we tell if YEC claims about the age of the earth are wrong?
  2. Should we accept YEC theological claims about the age of the earth? If not, why not?
  3. Should we privilege untested theological claims about nature over scientific conclusions about nature which have been reached through the scientific method?

If you can answer these questions, we could probably save ourselves a few pages of arguing.

Are you assuming that all mainstream scientific claims have the same level or quality of evidence supporting the hypothesis?

Are there any mainstream scientific claims that you find iffy?

Before we can proceed, I’d like to clear up a few things first. I can argue with someone who disagrees with me, but not someone who makes false claims.

Both of these claims are demonstrably false. You clearly accused me of those two things:

Exhibit 1: claiming that I (and Josh) don’t believe in the Scientific Revolution

Exhibit 2: claiming that I think scientists don’t know much

You should retract your false claims that you have not said these things. Otherwise I think it not worthwhile to proceed.

Nope, it’s just that you assume your personal definition of “authority on reality” is not what I am referring to. I never said that theologians are authorities on all of reality. They’re authorities on what they study, which is God.

I do not agree with you that these two statements are very different, at least in terms of what I meant. This is EXACTLY the kind of nitpicking semantics which I think is unproductive. When I say that “scientists/theologians have authority to speak about science/theology” I simply mean that they are more likely to have knowledge about science/theology, such that we should listen carefully to what they have to say about their subjects. I don’t mean that we have an obligation to accept everything they say without critical thinking or understanding their reasoning. You’re ascribing some huge connotations to the word “authority” that I’m not using at all here.

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I think you misunderstand the whole goal of the conversation. This was never about whether I think YEC claims are true. I have always maintained that YEC claims about the age of the Earth are clearly false, and that YEC epistemology is not satisfactory to me because it is not supported by mainstream science, biblical interpretation nor theology.

Rather, this was about accepting that there are a range of different epistemologies that different people can hold due to their personal preferences, intuitions, and cultural/ecclesial backgrounds, and that establishing a friendly, diplomatic space where everyone can talk openly about these - even if it seems irrational and widely at odds with what we think to be true - is more productive (and possibly more effective in making people see the faults of YEC) than the scorched earth tactic you seem to be advocating.

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That’s not right. The verificationism from logical positivism, the verificationism that has been abandoned, was a theory of meaning. It was not a theory of truth or of factuality.


You are right, which was why I said it’s a “form” of it, in the sense that it’s related, though not quite the same. Scientism is closer to what Jonathan’s views are. Both are undermined by the same problem of being self-defeating.

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I think Genesis 2 is missing an edited sentence. I was thinking this could be added:

29: Then God said, “I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it, except fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil. All these things, except for fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil , will be yours for food.”

What are your thoughts on that Jonathan?

And I think 31 needs a re-write. Instead of "God saw the man and woman that he had made - and they were neither mortal nor immortal", I think the phrase in bold should be corrected to:

- and they were mortal otherwise the Tree of Life would have rendered humans immortal."

What do you mean by the “book of God’s works”?
If it is science,How do you equate scientific data with God’s book of works.
What’s the biblical basis for this?
And if scientific data is the book of God’s works… how come we have a book of God’s works that doesn’t even acknowledge God’s existence?