Does Appearance of Age Render God a Deceiver?

(George) #47


The placental species of mammals were not ubiquitous. In the Old Earth scenario there just wasnt the opportunity for a placental species to find the land mass of what would eventually become ocean-bound Australia.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #48


First of all, it seems that reality is often non-intuitive. This is certainly true of the reality we find through science. If he exists (and I know you think he does not), we should expect the same with God. In the same way that nature is not required to conform to our expectations, we do not expect God to conform. For that reason, many rightfully object to facile arguments based on “divine psychology”.

Any how, with that in mind, if God tells us X is true, but it appears that Y is true instead, that does not make God a liar. If X really is true, than God is not deceiving us. We are left with the question of: why does Y look true instead? In some cases we might be able to come up with a good answer. Even if we can’t, perhaps God had a reason we do not understand. There is no promise made to us that the world will appear as it really is.

That being said, if we were to see a model with God acting specially to conceal Himself, that would be more difficult to explain. In that case, he would telling us X is true, but then intentionally and actively hiding evidence of X to disguise it as Y. That does appear deceptive. But even then, we should leave open to the question to theologians that go this way to offer a some explanation. Maybe they can. Let them have the space to figure it out. If they can’t come up with anything plausible, that is on them. We should ask the question and see what they say.

Look at the three cases I gave:

So the traditional answer that YECs give is #1, that the earth was created mature. This is actually a plausible answer, for some observations. The problem, however, is that there are things we see (e.g. distant starlight) that are not possible to explain away as necessary for function.

The fact is that we see what appears to be a false history (#2), events in the past that would never have happened had God recently created it all. In this case, I’ve heard two possible answers.

  1. I’ve seen some theologians explain this as God just creates this way, making a self-consistent universe. This is better than “last-thursday-ism”, because the claim is that God told them this truthfully, so God is not being deceitful. This is just how He creates things. This is internally consistent, and does not impute deceit on God, and it grants legitimacy to the findings of science.

  2. From John Sanford, in what he calls “Designed Ambiguity.” He posits that God desires the evidence in nature to be ambiguous. This argument grants legitimacy to scientific findings too. It is not that scientists are all lying. The evidence is just not clear because God did not want it to be clear. Why not? Well, maybe he wanted to be clearly known another way.

I’m not convinced either rebuttal is necessary or wise, but it both do seem to avoid the deceitful God objection.

The real problem for YEC is instead the evidence of class #3, that would have required God to have miraculously worked to protect and create false evidence of age through or after the flood. I have yet to hear any plausible theological argument here that would not impute deceit on God. “Designed Ambiguity” might solve it, but I am not at all convinced. Perhaps a theologian or philosopher with more knowledge than me might be able to do so. So I’ll leave the door open, but this is the case that will be hardest to solve theologically.

So what does that mean for us as scientists? We don’t have ask theological questions. We just report what it appears like on care inquiry, which might be very different than what it appears like at initial glance. So we are still very much correct in reporting that the earth really does appear to be old.

If theologians want to take a different path, they can do so, but they better come up with a good theological explanation, instead of making bad scientific arguments for a young earth. If they can, why not let them? We’d hopefully give them another way forward than making bad scientific arguments. Even if they are wrong, I see no harm in tolerating some coherent dissent. In the end, science be able to go forward with a lot less opposition.

(Ashwin S) #49

It’s not evidence against evolution.I was explaining to @gbrooks9 that it’s a question of the same class as that asked about biogeography in the YEC scenario . A lack of a complete answer is not evidence against the proposal.
The main problems for YEC do not arise from biogeography so much as it does from the laws of physics.
If someone wants to push back against YEC, then talk about things like the speed of light and decay rates.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #50

Biogeography falls into this class:

It would take miraculous intervention to see all the marsupials in Australia as we find them. Which raises this objection:

It is important to keep all these separate, because what works to resolve problems of class #1 and #2, does not work to solve problems of class #3. If you don’t keep that straight, it gets unnecessarily confusing. It is important to concede where we should, to help clarify where they do and do not have problems.

(Dan Eastwood) #51

Apologies if I was overly critical. I think you expressed the meaning I intended.

(Daniel Ang) #52

Can’t really speak about geology, but uniformitarianism in physics is not completely unfounded. We have experiments measuring whether “constants” actually change in time and they have so far found no evidence of change. We also have experiments measuring if the laws of the universe are constant in all directions.

In addition, I also tend to think that if the laws of physics that we encounter around us and can be verified to be true today turned out to just be a very specific instance that is local in space and time then that would stand in stark tension with the general order and beauty that we have found in many of our scientific experiments. You would essentially be saying, God created this beautiful, uniform, scientific order around us that is present today, but in the past it was actually chaotic and impossible to scientifically study. That is difficult for me to accept.

(Daniel Ang) #53

This is interesting. God could have created the universe last Thursday and still made it with the appearance of age, because he wanted us humans to scientifically study it - maybe because he thinks that’s an intrinsically great thing to do science (with assumptions of uniformitarianism). Of course, this means our science shouldn’t be affected, even if it is actually false.

One could take this further and say that it’s possible the external world is not real - we are all just inhabitants of a Matrix-like simulation that God created and sustains. But, God wants us to act as if this simulation is real because it is a good thing to do.

(Ashwin S) #54

Is this such a problem. Didn’t God bring the animals miraculously to the Ark? And fitting them all in it would also need a miracle… so why not one more miracle? Maybe God had a place where he wanted kangaroos to exist (an artistic preference perhaps).

There is no need to think in terms of deception or ambiguity to explain biogeography. It could be aesthetic choice.

What YECs will claim is that , there is no class 3. And since a global flood is miraculous all the way through , there is a lot of leverage to claim that. Miracles+ unknown mechanisms will explain pretty much any feature of biogeography.
Like you said ,just because something looks old to is based on assumptions of uniformitarianism and naturalism , it doesn’t mean God is deceiving us.
As far as I can see, the issue is definitely things like the speed of light and rates of decay.

(Daniel Ang) #55

A YEC could argue that God miraculously made light go faster in an undetectable way in the past. Or maybe God miraculously teleported light from the far reaches of the universe to Earth, so that we would get the opportunity to see his handiwork. What would be wrong with yet another miracle like that?

(Ashwin S) #56

I tend to agree with you. However that doesn’t mean that somebody making the opposite claim is necessarily wrong.
That’s all I am saying.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #57

There are just a large number of issues like that arise. There is no good way I’ve seen to explain away Lake Varves, Volcanic Ash, and the Great Isaiah Scroll. It is not just that God would have had to hide evidence of the flood, he would have had to have miraculously created new evidence of an old earth after the flood.

(Ashwin S) #58

At some point, a YEC will have to say he doesn’t have a good explanation for some features yet.
But he can claim to be working on one .
Since scientists do the same , why not give them the same latitude?
It’s entirely possible there are unknown/unthought of explanations that would resolve the problem.

Edit: As to deception. How can anyone claim that unless he is willing to look at things considering Gods actions?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #59

Not last Thursday, but 6,000 years ago. And yes, science would be totally legitimate, and God would not be a liar. Also, this position would be much more preferable than AIG. Rather than getting accusations of dishonesty and bad scientific arguments, we would have YECs entering the science, even astrophysics, doing well alongside the rest of us. Why not? What YECs believe in their hearts is not important in science, as long as they play by the rules in science.

This gets the definition of “real”. That Matrix-like simulation is actually “real”. It is that we also have an existence outside this simulation too. In this context, “real” is more a value judgement. The simulation is still a construct outside us all that we all inhabit together. So it is a reality of some sort or another. It is an alternate reality.

(Ashwin S) #60

If we are using the language of miracles, we can claim God maintains the speed of light as constant miraculously :wink:
Any miracle that happens regularly would be “natural”. Hence the argent will be that the speed of light is not constant. They could then make models accordingly and make predictions.
After all its not like we have any reason for why the speed of light is what it is.

(Daniel Ang) #61

Not necessarily. You could argue that God just did the miraculous speeding up or teleportation of light once, similar to the YEC argument that God distributed different flora and fauna once in the past. This model wouldn’t be easily falsified by science, since they would also claim that light has behaved in a uniform way since.

My point is that once you allow miracles to affect the way you think things came to be, that applies to physics as well as biology. Maybe it seems more awkward in physics because it is a more precise science. But the method is the same. Every time your theory doesn’t seem to match up, you can just say that God miraculously intervened once at that time and “fixed” your physics such that it does match up.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #62

This is exactly what they currently do, by the way. As soon as you start invoking unattested miracles, you can no longer claim that “the evidence” is on your side. That is a key point. Perhaps it is true, but the evidence is not telling us.

(Ashwin S) #63

I guess it’s possible…
And here is the rub. There is no reason it might not be true either.
A better explanation would be that God created the universe in a mature state. Maybe because he wanted stars to be visible to us.
And maybe there is an unknown purpose to why the universe is expanding.

The main point is that if the universe did not arise in a purely uniform manner with the laws remaining constant from the beginning, then our conclusions (I say our, because I agree with the conclusions) based on an assumption of uniformitarianism would be inevitably wrong. And we cannot blame God for our wrong conclusions. It’s an issue of perspective.

(Ashwin S) #64

I agree.
However that would not amount to deception on Gods part. Ruling out miracles was a choice made by human beings in this case.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #65

Which is why we do not consider miracles in science. If we did, we wouldn’t be able to say anything about anything. Whatever evidence we do not like could just be miraculous intervention. That is why considering miracles in science breaks science.

(Ashwin S) #66

Yes. However these are human limitations.
Our misunderstanding of God’s actions due to the limitations of being human does not amount to deception on the part of God.
There is no intention to deceive.
This is the main point I am making.

I myself believe in an old earth. But, if the earth turns out it be young and everything the YECs claim is true. Then I wouldn’t feel decieved.