8 Questions for Intelligent Design advocates

Eight Questions for Intelligent Design advocates

If the cosmos was “meticulously” designed (rather than cobbled or tinkered together) to produce living things…

  1. Why are so many planets and moons devoid of life?

  2. Why do living things die? In other words, life appears to be merely in equilibrium with death.

  3. Why do only a minimum of fertilized eggs of all species survive to sexual maturity? And only a minimum of the survivors successfully mate?

  4. Why did life evolve in the direction of life feeding on life? (Though humans are no longer hunted by large carnivorous animals, they remain the main foodstuff of many species of bacteria, viruses, single-and-multi-cellular parasites—especially human children, which remain prone to many childhood diseases, and the same is true of the young of all species, not just humans.)

  5. Why are evolutionary arms races so common? Species compete to eat other species and/or avoid being eaten. Or they hide inside other species, finding relative safety there. In fact parasites remain the most common species of all, since there are many species of parasite for each non-parasitical species, including parasites that live on other parasites, even viruses that invade other viruses.

  6. Why do the majority of species that split off from the rest simply become extinct? Why do the numbers of dead-end species far outnumber the ones that survive?

  7. Why does nature occasionally hit the reset button and enormous numbers of species become extinct at the same time?

  8. If every species has well designed mechanisms for adaptation, why does only one mosquito out of zillions survive DDT? Why does only one malarial parasite out of zillions survive anti-malarial drugs? Why does only one E. Coli out of zillions, when kept in containers with high citrate concentrations, evolve the ability to semi-digest citrate?

Additional Questions: “Nature contains a limited number of “odd survivors,” including a few phyla with only a handful of living members. Do Intelligent Design proponents have an explanation for such data?

Intelligent Design? How Intelligent? How Designed? Was the cosmos designed so that you in particular would come to exist? If you begin to doubt that proposition, then what about the proposition that the cosmos was designed so that your particular species would come to exist?

How Designed is the Cosmos?

Letʼs look at some of the questions that arise for those who would contend that the cosmos was designed so that they in particular, in all their individuality, would come into existence…

During childhood a girlʼs ovaries absorb almost half of the 1,000,000 immature eggs with which she was born. Of the 400,000 eggs present during her first menstrual period, only 300 to 500 of them will develop into mature eggs across her reproductive life span. Her body reabsorbs the rest before they complete development. In similar fashion the vast majority of sperm go unused, many are deformed, i.e., two heads, two tails, squiggly tails, heads that are too large or two small. Sperm are also subject to physical stress during ejaculation and contractions of the female tract, and may sustain oxidative damage, or even encounter the defenses of the female immune system meant for infectious organisms. Of the millions of sperm inseminated at coitus only a few thousand reach the Fallopian tubes and some travel up the tube through which an egg is not descending. So the odds of any particular sperm reaching any particular egg keep diminishing via the most insignificant turns of events. All “meticulously designed?” And why the perishing of so many unused eggs and sperm as part of the “design?”

A similar question is why the perishing of so many early apes and other primates prior to the arrival of the sole surviving species of homo? Why the perishing of endless species before them like extinct species of monkeys, and prior to them the plethora of extinct species of lemurs? Etc., going back in geologic time.

Neither is the vagina “sperm tight.” In fact, in a 5 year study of 11 female volunteers Baker and Bellis (1993) examined the characteristics of sperm loss from the vagina following coitus (‘flowback’). They found that flowback occurred in 94% of copulations with the median time to the emergence of ‘flowback’ of 30 min (range 5—120 min). Furthermore they estimated that a median of 35% of spermatozoa were lost through flowback but that in 12% of copulations almost 100% of the sperm inseminated were eliminated. This suggests that less than 1% of sperm might be retained in the female reproductive tract and this supports the notion that only a minority of sperm actually enter cervical mucus and ascend higher into the female reproductive tract.

Some sperm have just the male compliment of genes, some the female compliment. The male-producing-sperm tend to be faster on average, but the female-producing-sperm tend to be stronger on average, so itʼs a stalemate in the sperm gender competition to fertilize the egg. Itʼs anyoneʼs race. One might certainly take the above data as evidence that you as an individual were the result of the toss of genetic dice.

Even the circumstances by which oneʼs parents meet, and the time of year or day they make love, and the position they are in when they do so, along with other circumstance, can affect which sperm reaches which egg.

See Infographic, “The Odds of You Becoming You.”

My point is that nature raises more questions than answers. We do not appear to live in a cosmos that “guarantees” life will “succeed.” It looks like a big tinkering job if it takes so many suns and planets to keep mixing so many types of energy and matter for so long until a planet arises with self-replicating molecules on it. And no individualʼs life appears “guaranteed to succeed,” nor even the life of our species. Cosmically and geologically speaking, our species just arrived on the scene, and it has had several close calls (genetic bottlenecks, barely surviving the Ice Ages), as have many other species throughout time, the majority of which did not make it to the present. Nor do we know how much time our species has left. “Here today, gone tomorrow” might be humanityʼs epitaph.

Letʼs look deeper at what we know about human life. Up to the mid 1700s half of all children who were born died before reaching the age of eight (according to Buffonʼs estimate). Most fertilized human eggs [zygotes] abort during the first weeks of life. Estimates of death before implantation range as high as 80% and bottom out around 45%. More than 30% percent of those that do implant die before being born. Even among single births, 20-30% of them used to be twins in the womb but one twin absorbs the other, or is absorbed by the womb (vanishing twin syndrome). This means that sex produces on average, more zygotes, embryos and fetuses that die rather than survive. Someone like Michelle Duggar with her 19 children who does not use birth control, could not avoid having lost double or triple the number of fertilized eggs which she was able to carry to birth. She lost anywhere from 17 to 75 fertilized eggs in order to get the 19 children she has. Thatʼs a pretty big loss for every fertilized egg that made it to birth. Thatʼs how “design” works apparently.

And letʼs not forget that “designs” are constantly competing against other “designs.” Nature is opportunistic and jury-rigged all the way down. If the viruses and bacteria canʼt eat the human, some of them live on it or inside it in benign fashion, while others life on or inside the human in a semi-beneficial fashion, and others in a fully symbiotic and mutually beneficial fashion. But words like “harm” and “benefit” are mere metaphors, relative to each species. Itʼs all the same to nature, since every organism is reaching out to whatever is at hand to feed itself and continue churning out more of itself.

N. T. Wright -- A collection of quotations that illuminate his journey and beliefs (along with criticisms from those who find his views either too liberal or too conservative)

N. T. Wright — A collection of quotations that illuminate his journey and beliefs

N. T. Wright refuses to call himself an inerrantist, accepts evolution, but also defends all of the miraculous tales found in the Gospels, and stresses Godʼs goodness and love above all. Those opinions along with his view that leaders of the Reformation misunderstood Paul, have rankled not a few conservative Christian feathers. And it looks like he will be rankling more with his upcoming contribution to John Waltonʼs new book on Genesis. See for instance:

Quotations From N. T. Wright

“I grew up in a church-going family, a very sort of ordinary, middle-of-the-road Anglican family where nobody really talked about personal Christian experience. It was just sort of assumed like an awful lot of things in the 1950ʼs were just sort of taken for granted. So you went to church. It was assumed you said your prayers. You read your Bible.”

“Within that context, and with having lots of members of my family who were in ministry in one form or another, I suppose it shouldnʼt be surprising that at quite an early age, I was very, very conscious personally of the love of God.”

“I remember one particular moment (I donʼt actually know how old I was, but I guess around 7 or something like that) when I remember actually weeping. I was by myself in a room in the house, and I was just crying because I realized how much Jesus loved me. I have a clear memory of me as a little boy doing that. Iʼve no idea whether it was [because] Iʼd heard a sermon or something in a hymn or just something had come home to me.”

“I knew around that time that I had to be a preacher. I had to be a minister, which was a puzzle to me because my dad was a businessman. It was a family company and I assumed that I would take it on from him. So I kind of agonized as a small boy about how that was going to work. And then when it became clear that in fact my father was saying, ‘It will be interesting to see what you want to do when you grow up,’ I realized that there was no pressure on that front. And I remember huge relief: Hey, I can go and do what I really know I have to do!

“Throughout that time and then different stages through my teens… Through my teens, I was very much in contact with the evangelical movement through Scripture Union and Boysʼ Camps that I used to go on as a teenager and then through into my early twenties. And that would be twice a year… go off to Scotland and stay under canvas and go climbing and sailing and canoeing and all that stuff… but really good Bible teaching, morning and evening. And gradually I started to take a part in leading Bible studies and all of that.”

“Through my teens, my own personal Christian experience was just growing in a variety of ways — and basically learning how to pray and finding my way around the Bible. Funny but, for me, the Bible was a hobby before it was a serious study. It was the thing Iʼd sneak off and do on the side, feeling rather guilty because I wasnʼt doing my real school homework or whatever… and never thinking I would make it a lifeʼs work.”

“So I was enormously fortunate in all of that. I was ordained in my mid-twenties.”

“I guess, as an Anglican, thereʼs always room to move, which can be a dangerous thing, but also a very healthy thing… it gave me the space, enabled me to grow…

“I donʼt have a Damascus road experience to record. I donʼt have anything like that. Itʼs kind of a steady growth with some wonderful movements in the middle of it.”

N. T. Wright, in a podcast interview with Trevin Wax on Thursday, November 15, 2007 at Asbury Seminary

“I did learn an enormous amount by reading C. S. Lewisʼs main theological works, most of them two or three times, at a formative stage in my late teens. Even though I firmly disagree with C. S. L. on some things now I still regard him as having taught me some of what I know about how to think.”

N. T. Wright Q & A from September 2004.

“I went to Canada in 1981 to teach NT studies at McGill… During my second year at McGill, I plunged into the deepest depression Iʼve ever known. I wrestled in prayer, searched the scriptures, examined my conscience, and fell apart. I told my wife about it one night; the next morning, a letter arrived from a Christian psychotherapist who had felt an inexplicable but irresistible urge to write. I still have that letter. Over the next year I learned more about myself and my emotions than I had thought possible. If today I manage to function as a pastor, it is not least because I know something about pain. I know, too, that healing of memory and imagination is not just wishful thinking… Six years later, as I prepared to teach a course on Jesus in his historical context, I realized what else had been happening. I combed through my notebooks for all my old jottings. All the most significant insights about Jesus I had ever had, particularly my deepest reflections on the crucifixion, were dated in that period of depression… Passages from Scripture still jump off the page and make me want to laugh and/or cry with the love and the pain, of God. Unanswered questions remain. So does the frailty of my human self, as I struggle to be obedient to my multiple callings, both professionally and, more important (though not all Christians see this point), domestically. Who is sufficient for these things? Certainly not this muddled and sinful Christian. The great thing about that is what it does for your theology. The more I appreciate my own laughable inadequacy, the more I celebrate the fact of the Trinity. Without the possibility of invoking the Spirit of Jesus, of the living God, for every single task, what would keep me going? Pride and fear, I guess. I know enough about both to recognize the better way.”

Tom Wright, My Pilgrimage in Theology (Originally Published in Themelios, January, 1993, 18.2, 35. Reproduced by permission of the author.)

“The Jesus I have discovered through historical research is… not the Jesus I expected or wanted to find when I began this work nearly twenty years ago. Studying Jesus has been the occasion for huge upheavals in my personal life, my spirituality, my theology, and my psyche… Second, the Jesus I have discovered is clearly of enormous relevance to the contemporary world and Church. I know that others with very different Jesuses would say this as well, so you may find the point irrelevant… Let me put it like this. After fifteen years of serious historical Jesus study, I still say the creed ex animo; but I now mean something very different by it, not least by the word ‘god’ itself.”

N. Thomas Wright, “Jesus and the Identity of God” (Originally published in Ex Auditu 1998, 14, 42—56. Reproduced by permission of the author.)

“Well-known problems abound [with the nativity tales about Jesus in the Gospels]. Why does the genealogy finish with Joseph if Matthew is going to say that he wasnʼt Jesusʼ father after all? This cannot have been a problem for Matthew or he would hardly have followed the genealogy so closely with the story of the virginal conception. It was enough that Jesus was born into the Davidic family; adoption brought legitimation. Further, anyone can say that Matthew made it all up to fulfill Isaiah 7:14 (‘the virgin shall conceive’). Since Luke doesnʼt quote the same passage, though, the argument looks thin. Is Bethlehem mentioned only, perhaps, because of Micah 5:2-4? Again, Luke doesnʼt quote the same passage, but still gets Mary to Bethlehem for the birth. Some have questioned whether Herod would really have behaved in the way described in Matthew 2; the answer, from any reader of Josephus, would be a firm yes.”

“One can investigate, as many have, whether there really was a star. One can challenge the flight into Egypt as simply a back-projection from a fanciful reading of Hosea 11:1. These are the natural probing questions of the historian. As with most ancient history, of course, we cannot verify independently that which is reported only in one source. If that gives grounds for ruling it out, however, most of ancient history goes with it. Let us by all means be suspicious, but let us not be paranoid. Just because Iʼve had a nightmare doesnʼt mean that there arenʼt burglars in the house. Just because Matthew says that something fulfilled scripture doesnʼt mean it didnʼt happen…”

“Attention has focused on the census in Luke 2:2-whether it took place and could have involved people traveling to their ancestral homes. But Lukeʼs point has been missed. The census was the time of the great revolt-the rebellion of Judas the Galilean, which Luke not only knows about but allows Gamaliel to compare with Jesus and his movement (Acts 5:37). Luke is deliberately aligning Jesus with the Jewish kingdom-movements, the revolutions which declared that there would be ‘no king but God.’”

“The census is not, of course, the only query that people have raised about Lukeʼs birth stories. Jesusʼ birth at Bethlehem seems to have been a puzzle to Luke, which he explains by the census, rather than something he invents for other reasons. The fact that Luke does not mention the wise men, nor Matthew the shepherds, is not a reason for doubting either; this sort of thing crops up in ancient historical sources all the time. Of course, legends surround the birth and childhood of many figures who afterwards become important. As historians we have no reason to say that this did not happen in the case of Jesus, and some reasons to say that it did. But by comparison with other legends about other figures, Matthew and Luke look, after all, quite restrained…”

“No one can prove, historically, that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. No one can prove, historically, that she wasnʼt. Science studies the repeatable; history bumps its nose against the unrepeatable. If the first two chapters of Matthew and the first two of Luke had never existed, I do not suppose that my own Christian faith, or that of the church to which I belong, would have been very different. But since they do, and since for quite other reasons I have come to believe that the God of Israel, the worldʼs creator, was personally and fully revealed in and as Jesus of Nazareth, I hold open my historical judgment and say: If thatʼs what God deemed appropriate, who am I to object?”

N. T. Wright, “Godʼs Way of Acting,” The Christian Century, December 16, 1998, pp. 1215-17.

“Well, in terms of method, sola Scriptura is what Iʼve always tried to do, basically. You could put it negatively… If you find yourself thinking down a track where you think, Oh, well, if I go there, thatʼll mean ditching this bit of the Bible or that bit, then all sorts of warning lights flash and say, “You probably shouldnʼt be going there!” It may be that youʼve misheard your own mind, as it were, and there may be a way through this because there are always puzzles that we hit, but basically, my aim has been to expound Scripture and to expound Scripture in such a way that I do not set one Scripture over against another.

“However, I have to say, and my work on the authority of Scripture, which you probably know — a little book called The Last Word in America. Silly title, by the way. That was Harperʼs folly to call it that. It wasnʼt my idea. Fancy having a book called The Last Word! I mean… itʼs very silly. If I was going to write a book called The Last Word it would be on Christology, not on Scripture. ‘In the last days, God has spoken to us by his Son…’”

“But Iʼve been trying to stress that the risen Jesus does not say to the disciples, ‘All authority on heaven and earth is given to the books you chaps are going to go off and write.’ He says, ‘All authority on heaven and earth is given to Me.’ So that if we say that Scripture is authoritative, what we must actually mean is that the authority which is vested in Christ alone is mediated through Scripture.”

“Thatʼs a more complicated thing than simply having a book on the shelf, full of right answers that you can go and look up. Itʼs more a way of saying that when we read Scripture and determine to live under it, we are actually saying we want to live under the sovereign lordship of Jesus mediated through this book.”

“When you say it like that, then all sorts of other things happen as a result, like what is the sovereign lordship of Jesus all about? Is it simply to fill our heads with right answers to difficult questions? Well, right answers to difficult questions are better than wrong answers to difficult questions. But no, the authority of Jesus Christ is there to transform and heal and save the world, to make the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. So the question then is, how does the authority of Scripture serve that purpose?. And thatʼs actually much more interesting than simply using Scripture to settle or raise indeed doctrinal disputes within the church.”

N. T. Wright, in a podcast interview with Trevin Wax on Thursday, November 15, 2007 at Asbury Seminary

“As we read scripture, we struggle to understand what God is doing through the world and through us. The phrase ‘authority of scripture’ can make Christian sense only if it is shorthand for ‘the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture.’ When we examine what the authority of scripture means weʼre talking about Godʼs authority which is invested in Jesus himself, who says ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18, NRSV).’

N. T. Wright, in, “Heavy Theological Dude Mistakenly Talks to Us,” Becky Garrison, The Wittenburg Door Interview: N.T. “Tom” Wright, 12/17/2007

“I do not think Jesus ‘knew he was God’ in the same sense that one knows one is hungry, or thirsty, tall or short. It was not a mathematical knowledge. It was more like the knowledge that I have that I am loved by my family and closest friends; like the knowledge that I have that sunrise over the sea is awesome and beautiful; like the knowledge of the musician not only of what the composer intended but of how precisely to perform the piece in exactly that way-a knowledge most securely possessed, of course, when the performer is also the composer. It was, in short, the knowledge that characterizes vocation. As I have put it elsewhere: ‘As tested in confrontation, agonized over in further prayer and doubt, and implemented in action, he [Jesus] believed he had to do and be, for Israel and the world, that which according to Scripture only YHWH himself could do and be.’ ‘Awareness of vocation’ is by no means the same thing as Jesus having the sort of ‘supernatural’ awareness of himself, of Israelʼs God, and of the relation between the two of them such as is often envisaged by those who, concerned to maintain a ‘high’ christology, place it within an eighteenth-century context of implicit Deism where one can maintain Jesusʼ ‘divinity’ only by holding some form of docetism.”

N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999) p. 121-122

[Personally, I think Wright is just saying he is sure Jesus was God, but he canʼt prove even Jesus was certain of it.]

“The way I see it is that there were many hominids or similar creatures, part of the long slow process of Godʼs good creation. And at a particular time God called a particular pair for a particular task: to look after his creation and make it flourish in a whole new way. Actually, this fits with the scientific evidence according to which there were some significant changes in the hominid population and lifestyle around 6000 years ago, though I wouldnʼt myself put too much weight on that.”

N.T. Wright on the Bible and why he wonʼt call himself an inerrantist,” Jonathan Merritt on Faith and Culture, Religious News Service, June 2, 2014

“I do think there was a primal pair in a world of emerging hominids, thatʼs the way I read that… But it seems to me that just as God called Abraham and Sarah out of a welter of wandering nations and said Iʼve got a special purpose for you, the way that I see it is that God called one pair of hominids and said ‘OK, this place is a bit chaotic, you and I together, weʼre going to have a project. Weʼre going to plant this garden and weʼre going to go out from here and this is how itʼs going to be.’ So when Cain goes off he founds a city. Excuse me, who else is in the city?… And ancient Jewish readers knew this perfectly well, they knew that this was not the first ever humans or anything like them.”

“NT Wright on Paul, Hell, Satan, Creation, Adam, Eve & more,” Unbelievable? [radio/podcast], Friday 1st November 2013

N. T. Wright Focuses on Love & Goodness

“At quite an early age, I was very, very conscious personally of the love of God… I realized how much Jesus loved me… God says, “You are my beloved child. With you I am well pleased.” The verdict of the future is brought forward into the present on the basis of faith and faith alone, and faith is the result of Godʼs grace through the gospel of Jesus crucified and risen… The verdict of justification is God saying over faith, ‘This really is my beloved child.’… Paul slices straight in with the Isaianic message: Good news! God is becoming King and he is doing it through Jesus! And therefore, phew! Godʼs justice, Godʼs peace, Godʼs world is going to be renewed. And in the middle of that, of course, itʼs good news for you and me. But thatʼs the derivative from, or the corollary of the good news which is a message about Jesus that has a second-order effect on me and you and us… God is the Creator God, he doesnʼt want to say, ‘Okay, creation was very good, but Iʼm scrapping it.’ He wants to say, ‘Creation is so good that Iʼm going to rescue it.’… Godʼs going to do the great thing in the future, and my goodness, heʼs doing it with us already in the present!… When you announce that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the world, crucified and risen, you are simultaneously saying, ‘And you need to believe in him for your own present and eternal justification and salvation,’ but also ‘this means that he is claiming the whole creation as his own and wants to renew and restore it and flood it with his justice and his love, and if youʼre signing on to believe in him, youʼve got to be part of that project.’ If he is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all… [Jesus] believed that Godʼs purposes to rescue the whole world were coming to fulfillment. He died to take the weight of evil upon himself. He rose to launch Godʼs project and to invite the whole world to join in with it and find it for themselves… I went to do a public debate with Ted Yarnold whoʼs one of the great Catholic theologians at Oxford, sadly dead now. We went off to a big ecumenical gathering in Reading, between Oxford and London, and we chatted in the car about who would speak first. I said, “Well, youʼre the senior here. You better go first and lead off.” So he did. He began by saying, ‘Letʼs just remind ourselves what the doctrine of justification is. It is that thereʼs nothing whatever we can do to earn Godʼs favor. It must come entirely from Godʼs grace. And the only thing that we can possibly do is nothing of ourselves, merely believe in the astonishing goodness and grace of God.’ And I stood up and said, ‘We might as well go home because obviously weʼre on the same page here. If your chaps had been saying this 400 years ago, we mightnʼt have got into all this problem.’… I think thereʼs been an enormous amount of misunderstanding. I have met many Roman Catholic theologians who will emphasize as much as any good Protestant preacher that everything comes from the love and grace of God… The great thing we have to work at (and a tip of the hat to the Catholic bishops ten years ago who wrote a document called ‘The Common Good’), weʼve got to rediscover that there are, as Oliver Donovan says, ‘common objects of love.’… The gospel is about the recreation of the whole world and included in that is lots of stuff about common good which we can actually agree on. And we have to work on that locally, culturally, nationally - to build relationships of trust and mutual respect. That doesnʼt mean that we donʼt do evangelism. Paradoxically, it means that if we show that we respect people, we actually earn the right to be heard. If we show that we donʼt respect them, we will never be heard.”

N. T. Wright, in a podcast interview with Trevin Wax on Thursday, November 15, 2007 at Asbury Seminary

Criticisms From Dale Allison, Larry Hurtado, Edward Adams, Thom Stark & Others

“These lame words [of Wrightʼs] lack all historical sense. They are pure apologetics, a product of the will to believe, and a prize illustration of theological predispositions moving an intelligent man to render an unintelligent verdict.”
– Dale C. Allison Jr. on N.T. Wrightʼs belief in a literal interpretation of the “many risen saints” passage in Matthew 27:51-53, The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus. Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2009, p. 21.

“To his credit, Wright makes no attempt to conceal this apologetic concern… One curious matter to mention is that, whereas on one page Wright agrees that ‘there was a wide spectrum of belief in second-Temple Judaism regarding the fate of the dead.’ (p. 201), a few pages later he contends that, except for those like the Sadducees who resisted the idea, ‘resurrection had been woven into the very fabric of first-century Jewish praying, living, hoping and acting’ (p. 204), and that in Jesusʼ time ‘most Jews believed in resurrection,’ although there remained a certain diversity about what the resurrection body would be like (p. 205)… Part Four (chaps. 13-17) is a detailed analysis of the canonical Gospelsʼ accounts of Jesusʼ resurrection… One question that readers may judge less than adequately handled is whether the variations among the Gospel narratives reflect ‘only minor development’ (p. 611) in traditions about Jesusʼ resurrection in the first century.”
– Larry Hurtado, reviewing Wrightʼs book on the resurrection, The Expository Times, 115:3 Dec. 2003, p. 83-86.

Edward Adams (biblical scholar) and Thom Stark (a seminarian) have demonstrated Wrightʼs ignorance when it comes to researching and understanding apocalyptic. See The Stars Will Fall by Edward Adams, and, The Human Faces of God by Thom Stark. Here is a review of Adamsʼ book, The Stars Will Fall, published by the Society of Biblical Literature: Starkʼs book has a chapter on Jesus the apocalyptic prophet, titled,“Was Jesus Wrong?” Stark read Wright throughout seminary, and was a big fan, however after studying Wrightʼs attempts to reinterpret prophecies of a literal return of the Son of Man/the Lord throughout the NT, Stark points out why Wrightʼs view fails to explain the passages in question.

“The first thing to be said about the evangelical mind, wrote Mark Noll in his much discussed The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, ‘is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.’ In recent years, however, that has changed dramatically, according to… a cover story in Christianity Today magazine celebrating ‘The New Theologians’ (N. T. Wright, Kevin Vanhoozer, Richard Hays, Ellen Charry, Miroslav Volf). Christianity Today exults in the fact that such figures, who are not ashamed to be called evangelicals, are teaching at universities such as Yale and Duke where the liberals—in antithesis to whom evangelicals define themselves—once held undisputed sway. The CT message is, partly, that we now have some of ‘our’ people planted behind the enemy lines and, partly, that a few members of the C[hristian] team are playing with the A team. The distinctly defensive tone is perhaps to be expected in the mainline (if one may be permitted the term) publication of evangelicals who are self-consciously outsiders… They give reason to believe that the time is in sight when it will not be accurate to say that ‘there is not much of an evangelical mind.’ Then comes along evangelical sociologist James Davison Hunter of the University of Virginia to rain on the party. The question he has been asking in a number of scholarly books is: ‘Maybe so. But will they then still be evangelicals?’”
– Richard John Neuhaus, “The Evangelical Mind, Again,” The Public Square, First Things 93 (May 1999): 77-95.

In the Bible there is divination, witchcraft, demons, along with the belief that God personally guides the constellations in their season and moves the clouds and sends the lightnings (thunder is his “voice”) and He personally sends plagues, famines, droughts, warring armies. The same Bible fails to feature scientific views ahead of its time.

In the Bible there is divination, witchcraft, demons

On all the actions that allegedly take place due to Godʼs personal decisions see Israelʼs Theological Worldview

Divination in the Hebrew Bible

Despite officially condemning all magicians and divinatory practitioners, the Bible is replete with references to divination… Examples of native magical practitioners and techniques abound in the Hebrew Bible: kings and priests have access and recourse to magic and divination, for example in their consulting oracles, and casting lots in times of crisis

  • Jacob in his sneaky manipulation of sticks to ensure the multiplication of his flocks, Genesis 44;

  • Davidʼs oracular consultations in times of military crisis, 1 Samuel 22.13-15, 23.2-4 and 9-12, 2 Samuel 2.1.

  • Moses and Aaron are similarly not above using magic rods in Exodus 7-10 and 14.

  • Ordinary people use them too–notably to aid fertility (for example Leah and Rebekah in their fertility contest, Genesis 30).

  • Dreams, another form of supernatural communication, are dreamt by characters beyond foreign suspicion: Jacob again (Genesis 28), Joseph (Genesis 37.5, 40.9ff.), Solomon (1 Kings 3) and Daniel (Daniel 2).

Examples of

  1. rhabdomancy,
  2. psepsomancy,
  3. hydromancy, and
  4. astrology,

to cite a few examples, are all witnessed in ancient Israelite society. These examples show that the ancient Israelites were no different from their ancient Near Eastern neighbors. Also, we should note that divinatory practices are associated with men whose allegiance to and active participation in Godʼs plan cannot be faulted.


  1. Divination technique involving the manipulation of rods or arrows (belomancy): Hosea 4:12; Ezekiel 21:21.

  2. Divination through lot casting: Jonah 1:7.

  3. Divination by gazing at the water: Genesis 44:5-15; 1 Kings 1:9; Numbers 5:9-28.

  4. Divination from the configuration of the stars: Judges 5:20; Joshua 10:12-13; Amos 5:26; Isaiah 47:12-15.

For an overview of the history of interpretation, see F.H. Cryer, Divination in Ancient Israel and its Near-Eastern Environment: a Socio-Historical Investigation (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994)

Ann Jeffers, Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria (Leiden: Brill, 1996) And see her paper in this anthology.

A list of authoritative titles on Ancient Biblical Divination & Magic in the Old Testament

When the Bible Says “No Divination” It Really Means…”Some Divination.”

According to Deuteronomy 18:10,12, “There shall not be found among you anyone who…uses divination…For whoever does such things is detestable to the Lord.” However, didnʼt the Hebrew patriarch, Joseph, practice “divination?” He practiced the ancient magical art of lecanomancy, otherwise known as “cup-divination.”

Is not this [cup] it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth?…And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can certainly divine?
- Gen. 44:5,15

By means of cup-divination a person could supposedly foretell the future and find lost objects. Neither was Joseph condemned in the Bible for being a cup-diviner. Go figure.

And… didnʼt both the Hebrews and Christians practice the ancient magical art of cleromancy, otherwise known as “casting lots to divine the will of Providence?” (How different is that from tossing Chinese I Ching sticks to find out what Providence has in mind?) As it says in the Bible, “The lot is cast into the lap; but its decision is from the Lord.” (Prov. 16:33) “The lot puts an end to contentions, and decides between the mighty.” (Prov. 18:18) Numerous examples of this magical practice of divining Godʼs will can be found in the Bible:

  • The tribes of Israel divided the “promised land” by “casting lots.” (Num. 26:52-56; 33:54; 36:1-2; Joshua 13:6; 14:1-2; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1-2,14-17; 18:6-11; chapters 19,21,22,23; Isa. 34:17; Ezk. 45:1; 47:22; 48:29)

  • Hebrew kings were chosen and tactical decisions in battle were decided by “lot.” (1 Sam. 10:20-23; 14:41-42; Judges 20:9) Also chosen by “lot” were “governors” for each “ward,” and for the house of God. (1 Chron. 24:5-7,31; 25:8-9; 26:14-16)

  • Saul, by drawing lots, found that his son Jonathan had eaten honey (1 Kings 14:58)

  • Jonah, when fleeing from the face of the Lord, was discovered and thrown into the sea by lot (Jonah 1:7)

  • People were chosen to receive special favors by “lot” (Lev. 16:8-10; Mic. 2:5; Neh. 10:34; 11:1)

  • The guilt of people was judged and confirmed by casting lots. (Josh. 7:13-18; the Hebrew word ‘lakad’ translated ‘taken,’ means ‘chosen by lot;’ Jonah 1:7)

  • According to the New Testament, Zacharias was chosen by lot to offer incense (Luke 1:9); and after the apostle Judas committed suicide the early church chose between two replacement candidates by “lot.” (Acts 1:23-26)

Theologians debated the practice of “casting lots” for centuries. The Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, quoted several of their views in his Summa Theologica in a “Question” titled, “Whether Divination By Drawing Lots is Unlawful?” He warned that the practice of casting lots could be relied on too heavily, thus “tempting God;” or, demons might interfere with the outcome if the lots were cast without prior prayer. He found the casting of lots to be lawful in cases where making choices was especially difficult and when due reverence was observed, “If… there be urgent necessity it is lawful to seek the divine judgment by casting lots, provided due reverence be observed.” See Question 95, Article 8, 2nd Pt of the 2nd Pt of Aquinasʼs Summa Theologica.

After the rise of Protestant churches, denominations like the Puritans cast lots to determine Godʼs will—which made them outlaw less serious uses of “dice” in games or gambling because the casting of dies or lots should be reserved only for divining Godʼs will. Besides the Puritans, the famed Christian Evangelist and founder of Methodism in the 1700s, Rev. John Wesley, justified his actions as being the will of God on the basis of having “cast lots,” a practice which he later renounced. Tunker Baptists (also known as Tumbler Baptists) were another group from the 1700s who “cast lots,” for example, to determine who should be the church administrator. In the 1780s there were also “Sandemanian” Christians (one famous member being the scientist, Joseph Priestly) who “cast lots” to determine Godʼs will.

If anyone knows of cases in the twentieth century in which churches have “cast lots” to determine future church locations; church administrators; how best to distribute church funds; or determine the salaries of mega-church preachers, please let me know!

Not Only Did the Hebrew Lord “Play Dice,” But He Also Changed His Mind (Or “Repented” of His Previous Actions). The Bible Says He Did It So Often He Grew “Weary of Repenting.” But if God Knows the Future, Why Should He Ever Have to Change His Mind?

The Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.- 1 Samuel 15:35 (But the Lordʼs “dice” had chosen Saul to be king in the first place!)

And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.- Genesis 6:6-7 (see also Deut. 32:36 & Ps. 135:14)

And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.- 1 Chronicles 21:15

Did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them?- Jeremiah. 26:19

God told Moses He was going to let His people, the Israelites, die in the desert and make a new nation out of Mosesʼs children alone. But Moses talked Him out of that plan, “And the Lord repented of the evil the he thought to do unto his people.”- Exodus 32:14

Compare the above scene with Genesis 18:23-33, where Abraham gets God to change his mind about the minimum number of righteous people in Sodom required to avoid destruction, bargaining God downwards from fifty to ten. (An omniscient God must have known that He was toying with Abrahamʼs hopes for mercy—He destroyed the city anyway.)

And the Lord repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not.- Jonah 3:10

I [the Lord] am weary of repenting.- Jeremiah 15:6

Evangelical Christians of the “Open Theism” school of theology point to the above depictions of God “repenting,” and argue that God does “change his mind” in response to the arguments or actions of human beings. “Open Theists” assert that God does not know everything there is to know about the future. However, the majority of Christians continue to believe that God already knows the future and they explain away the above verses as mere “metaphors” of how God “appears” to act from our point of view. So, these different Evangelical Christian theologians canʼt agree on whether to understand the above stories metaphorically or literally. They make their own choice as to what they think the Bible “really” teaches, which is something they blame “liberals” and “humanists” for doing. Some “Open Theism” Evangelicals have even had to leave the Christians colleges where they had been teaching.

More “Godly” Divination: The Urim & Thummim

Another magical way to divine Godʼs will was via the “Urim and Thummim.” Those two objects were connected with the breastplate worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:30) but it is not known what the Urim and Thummim were. Were they gems kept in a pouch worn on the high priestʼs chest? Were they engraved with symbols that reflected a divine “yes” and a divine “no?” Were they like the ancient Assyrian “Tablets of Destiny” that were tossed to determine the will of ancient Near Eastern gods like Marduk or Bel? We donʼt know. But such prominent figures as Aaron (Ex. 28:30) and Joshua (Num. 27:21), and the Hebrew tribe of priests, the Levites (Deut. 28:8), used the Urim and Thummim to divine Godʼs will.

King Saul consulted the “Urim” but received “no answer.” (1 Sam. 28:6) Maybe the Urim and Thummim were the two most sacred “lots” of Israel, and after you tossed both of them, if one landed on its “yes” side, but the other landed on its “no” side, it was interpreted as God leaving the receiver off the hook?

Behold the Bird of God, Who Takes Away the Mold, Mildew & Leprosy of the World

Weʼve all heard the term “scapegoat,” but did you know it was based on holy commands given in the Hebrew Bible? God commanded that a priest transfer the sins of the people onto a goat, and send the goat into the wilderness, thus carrying away the peopleʼs sins. (Lev. 16:20-22) We remember the scapegoat story, but we forget about the lowly scape-bird, a bird that God commanded a priest to transfer “uncleanness” to, then send flying into the sky. (Lev. 14:4-7,48-53) What kinds of “uncleanness” did the scape-bird carry away with it? Would you believe mold, mildew, and… leprosy?

To the ancient mind discolored splotches of mold and mildew on clothing, leather or the walls of their homes, were lumped with that dreaded disease, leprosy. The same Hebrew word was used to describe them all, despite the tendency of modern Bible translators to make modern distinctions and use the words, ‘mold’ or ‘mildew,’ in cases of clothing and walls. The ancient Hebrews made no such distinctions but used the same word to describe a discolored growth on a wall, on poorly stored clothing, or on the skin of a leper. Consequently, the same remedy was required by Godʼs law.

Get your “scape-birds” here! They remove tough mold and mildew stains, as well as leprosy!

Dave Matson, “Godʼs Ignorance Concerning Leprosy,” Commonsense Versus the Bible [edited, with added comments by E.T.B.]

Spit In Yer Eye?

Magical spit was widely praised in the world of ancient folk medicine for its healing virtues. So widely known was the spit treatment in fact that two Gospel authors included stories about Jesus employing spit to cure the blind and those with impediments of speech (Mark 7:31-37; 8:22-26; John 9:6). Jesusʼs spit miracles mirrored those of his contemporaries and resembled those of a typical ancient wonder worker.

A. J. Mattill, Jr., The Seven Mighty Blows to Traditional Beliefs (enlarged edition)

Those Were the Days!

The days of the cup divination of Joseph, the bronze serpent Moses made that he told people to look at in order to be healed, the consultation of Urim and Thummim by kings of Israel. (The Babylonians would consults “tablets of destiny” that they would toss, to inquire of the divine will.) The casting lots to single people out and parcel out land and determine Godʼs will in the days of Moses and Joshua and Solomon. Jesusʼs own apostles cast lots to pick an apostle to replace Judas.

And hereʼs a nice little reference to arrow divination, or “shuffling arrows” from Ezekiel:

(Ezek. 21:21) that “the king of Babylon stood in the highway, at the head of two ways, seeking divination, shuffling arrows; he inquired of the idols, and consulted entrails.”

Or there are the small gold figures of mice and hemeroids fashioned by the Philistines and sent back with the ark of the covenant to Israel, to try and remove the plague of mice and diseases amongst the Philistines.

Or thereʼs the case of Samson not cutting his hair, for his strength was in his hair.

Or thereʼs the movement of the water in a pool in Jerusalem, moved by angels, mentioned in the Gospel of John (if you were the first to drag yourself into the water when it moved, you were healed).


It was believed that people by the aid of the Devil could assume any shape they wished. Witches and wizards were changed into wolves, dogs, cats and serpents. Within two years, between 1598 and 1600, in one district of France, the district of Jura, more than six hundred men and women were tried and convicted before one judge of having changed themselves into wolves, and all were put to death. This is only one instance. There were thousands.

Robert Ingersoll, “The Devil”

One of the Many Torture Devices Used

The vaginal pear was used on woman who had sex with the Devil or his familiars. The rectal pear was used on passive male homosexuals and the oral pear was used on heretical preachers or lay persons found guilty of unorthodox practices. Inserted into the mouth, anus or vagina of the victim, the pear was expanded by use of the screw until the insides are ripped, stretched and mutilated, almost always causing death. The pointed ends of the ‘leaves’ were good for ripping the throat, intestines or cervix open.

In three centuries (1450 to 1750) more than 100,000 persons, the overwhelming majority of them being women, were tried for the crime of witchcraft, and more than half were executed. The prosecutions by church and governmental authorities often involved the use of torture, and constitute one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the history of the West.

Witch-hunting in Early Modern Europe, Vol. 3, Articles on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology, ed., Brian P. Levack

The “witch-hunting” mania continued until the 18th century. In Scotland, an old woman was burned in 1722 after being convicted of turning her daughter into a pony and riding her into a witchesʼ coven. In Germany, a nun was burned alive in the marketplace of Wurzburg in 1749 after other nuns testified that she climbed over convent walls in the form of a pig. The last legal execution of a witch occurred in Switzerland in 1782. By that time, various scientists and scholars had raised doubt about the reality of witchcraft to bring an end to the madness. [p.78]

A profound irony of the witch-hunts is that they were directed, not by superstitious savages, but by learned bishops, judges, professors, and other leaders of society. The centuries of witch obsession demonstrated the terrible power of supernatural beliefs. [p.79]

James A. Haught, Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1990)

For centuries the Catholic Church proclaimed the reality of the crime of “witchcraft,” backed by the Biblical command, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

The Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, said about witches, “I would burn them all!”

John Calvin stated, “The Bible teaches us that there are witches and that they must be slain… this law of God is a universal law,” and also pleaded in 1545 that the government of Geneva, Switzerland, should “extirpate the race [of witches] from the land” of Peney.

A few centuries later, after the smoke cleared, the famed Christian evangelist, John Wesley, lamented, “The giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the Bible.” (The Journal of John Wesley, 1766-1768)

The witch text in the Bible remains; the practice of executing them changed. The slavery text in the Bible remains; the practice changed. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the Biblical texts that authorized them remain.

Is it not well worthy of note that of all the multitude of Biblical texts through which man has driven his annihilating pen he has never once made the mistake of obliterating a good and useful one? It does certainly seem to suggest that if man continues in the direction of enlightenment, his religious practice may, in the end, attain some semblance of human decency.

Mark Twain, “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice”

Modern Day Witch Hunts

In 1928, a Hungarian family was acquitted of killing an old woman they thought was a witch, and as late as 1970s, a poor German woman was suspected of being a witch after the people in the small town ostracized her, pelted her with rocks, and killed her animals. In France, a man was killed for suspected sorcery in 1978, and in 1981 a mob stoned a woman to death in Mexico because they believed that her witchcraft incited an attack on the pope.

W. Sumner David, Th.D., Heretics : The Bloody History of the Christian Church

If a Witch Curses Her Enemies Itʼs Called “Witchcraft.” So If A Christian Invokes God to Curse People, Shouldnʼt That Be Called “Godcraft?”

In 1994 the Capitol Hill Prayer Alert, a Washington D.C.-based prayer group, produced a list of twenty-five Democratic incumbents, and urged prayer partners to petition God to bring evil upon the people on that list. “Donʼt hesitate to pray imprecatory Psalms over them,” wrote one of the groupʼs founders, Harry Valentine, in the groupʼs newsletter. “Imprecatory” means to “call down evil upon.” Such Psalms include: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” (Ps. 109:8,9) “Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into Sheol.” (Ps. 55:15) “The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: he shall wash his own feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Ps. 58:10) (How is this different from sticking pins in voodoo dolls, or whipping up a witchʼs brew and mumbling curses? I guess itʼs all right for Christians to “curse” people so long as they use a “Biblically sound” method. But, leaving the “imprecatory Psalms” aside, donʼt these people realize that Jesus commanded his disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?”—E.T.B.)

Skip Porteous, “Election ʻ94 Observations,” Free Inquiry, Winter 1994/95)

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our New England forefathers. For if it hadnʼt been for their amazing wisdom and foresight over two hundred years ago, weʼd be up to our asses in witches.

Cecil Wyche & Tom Weisel

Young-earth creationists, Henry Morris, Ken Ham, and Jason Lisle fail to provide insight into the cosmos. Lisle's answer to "The Distant Starlight Question" (Alternate Synchrony Convention) fails to add scientific weight to young-earth creationism

Beginning with a classic quotation from Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research, whose book, The Genesis Flood, inspired Ken Ham to create his own young-earth organization and Creation Museum…

As far as distant stars and galaxies are concerned, there is no evidence either in science or Scripture, that any of them have planets.
—Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Bier Book House, 1984) p. 244

A year after Morris published that comment astronomers discovered…

“Beta Pictoris was one of several nearby stars embedded in clouds of dust-clouds that look very much like planetary systems in the act of formation. Furthermore, if it was simply a uniformly distributed disk of dust, then looking edge on through such a disk should block out most of Beta Pictorisʼ light. Since we can clearly see the star, the inner parts of the disk probably do not contain much dust-which is exactly what one would expect if the material had already condensed into planets.”—M. Mitchell Waldrop, “First Sightings,” Science 85, June, 1985

Young-earth creationists

As of February 1, 2017, there have been over 3,500 exoplanets in over 2,500 planetary systems and over 600 multiple planetary systems confirmed. Click here for latest listing.

The worldʼs newest and most powerful exoplanet imaging instrument, the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), was designed to capture infrared images of exoplanets, and captured its first image Jan. 2014. But even before that Imager was implemented we had visual images of exoplanets via standard techniques:

The earth is the center of Godʼs interest in the universe, with the sun, moon, and stars merely providing various essential services for the earth and its inhabitants. —Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), p. 162

Doesnʼt the light of stars extend in all directions to the farthest reaches of the universe, and not merely “provide” such “service” to the “earth and its inhabitants?”

In fact countless stars blaze away countless kilowatts of energy in every corner of this vast cosmos for no apparent purpose while the earth—which God allegedly worked on for “five” out of the “six days of creation”—receives only an infinitesimal portion of the energy expended by even the nearest star, the sun.

How “essential” is the light produced by the two trillion or more galaxies (per 2017 data) that we know about in our cosmos? When you look up outside on a dark night, you can see thousands of stars. But the Milky Way has two hundred billion stars in it. Youʼre only seeing a tiny tiny fraction of the number of stars tooling around the galaxy. In fact, with only a handful of exceptions, the most distant stars you can readily see are 1000 light years away—but the cosmos contains stars starting with our nearby sun that lay only about a light minute or two away, all the way to stars that lie over 13 billion light years away. Worse, most stars are so faint that they remain invisible even when they are much closer than 1000 light years away. In fact our nearest star, the Sun, is too dim to see from farther than about 60 light years away… and the Sun is pretty bright compared to most stars. So the little bubble of stars we can see around us is just a drop in the ocean of the Milky Way. With the naked eye you can only see 0.000003% percent of the stars in the galaxy we live in, and nothing but two dim dots in the sky correspond to two galaxies one can see with the naked eye, with over two trillion more galaxies out there in the depths of space and time, each containing tens to hundreds of billions of stars.

If the light of the moon was arranged so as to provide “essential services” for people on planet earth, then why do other worlds exist with more moons than the earth? A couple thousand years after the Bible was written, astronomers discovered a curious thing about that “great lamp” the moon, which was allegedly created for “signs and seasons” on earth and to “rule the night.” They discovered that Mars has two moons. Yet Mars has no people who need their steps “lit” at night, or who need to know the “signs and seasons” [literally, times of worship]. Even more curiously, it was discovered that Neptune has four moons, Uranus has eleven, Jupiter has sixteen, and Saturn has eighteen moons (one of them, Titan, is even larger than the planet Mercury). The earth was created with just one moon, and it “rules the night” so badly that for three nights out of every twenty-eight it abdicates its rule and doesnʼt light the earth at all—at which time I suppose creationists may bump into each other in the dark.

The Distant Starlight Problem Stated:

When we look into regions or space lying more than several thousand light-years away (try tens of thousands, millions, billions of light-years away) we see two trillion or more galaxies spinning, rings of matter expanding from explosions in the distant past, pulsars pulsing, stars changing in brightness or exploding, even wandering planets that have long escaped from their orbits around distant stars. But if the speed of light takes a year to travel a certain distance then what we are observing are things that happened in the very distant past of the cosmos, a past far older than any young-earth creationist is willing to accept. To quote young-earth creationist Ken Ham,

Now - let me add this. Weʼre not going to have all the answers. There will be some things like the issue of light from the farthest star in a young universe… we donʼt have all the answers. —Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis iTunes Podcast “Sermon: Six Days & The Eisegesis Problem”, time into program: 1:09:12

Like Ham, his fellow YEC, Jason Lisle, admits that most attempts by young-earth creationists to explain away the distant starlight problem fail [see the ENDNOTE to read Lisleʼs admissions]

Lisleʼs Solution

Lisle assumes or rather guesses that maybe light travels at near infinite speeds when it is headed toward the earth from distant stars. He cites the current debate in physics over whether the speed of light is a “constant” or a “convention.” Experimentally speaking, we can apparently only measure the speed of light when it is traveling in one direction, so we will never know exactly how fast it might be traveling in the opposite direction, say between two mirrors. If the speed of light is viewed as a “convention” then measurements of the speed of light here on earth cannot by themselves resolve the issue of how fast light is traveling in any particular direction or in the cosmos at large, and neither would varying speeds of light affect other constants in the cosmos. Itʼs a complicated debate. But Jason utilizes the debate by assuming it is over, and also adds additional assumptions. He has to assume that God has rigged the cosmos since the beginning so that light travels at near instantaneous speed (simultaneously from every star) when it is traveling “toward the earth.” That assumption goes way beyond what science can actually say.

To quote Lisle:

“Itʼs possible the stars were created on Day Four… and that their light reached earth on Day Four… in the same way that a plane on earth can leave at 4:00PM and arrive at its destination at 4:00PM as long as itʼs going west, which wonʼt work going in other directions. Likewise this would only work for light coming towards the earth. But thatʼs the only place we need to get it really, cause God made those lights in the firmament to shine upon the earth anyway.”
—Dr. Jason Lisle - The Distant Starlight Mystery

Still Waiting These Past Two Years for Lisleʼs Response to the Challenge Others Have Put to His Distant Starlight Answer

Two years ago Lisleʼs alleged solution to the creationist “Starlight Problem” was challenged by the math of Einsteinʼs General Relativity. Critics confronted Lisle with a handful of different mathematical and observational arguments that refuted his alleged solution to the Starlight Problem, which he calls “ASC” [Anisotropic Synchrony Convention]— one point being that his ASC would in require a gravitational field that ought to be observable, but isnʼt observed. In his only response, two years ago today, Lisle promised to explain why old-eartherʼs are wrong and his model is the one and only true one.

Lisle: Iʼve seen this criticism [observable gravity field] but I havenʼt responded yet. It is very easy to refute. I plan on doing a series on this blog on the topic of ASC, in which I will refute this and other criticisms made by those who have not studied the topic. [Jason Lisle, comment September 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm]

Still, no response from Lisle, see here for a far more in-depth discussion of Lisleʼs attempted solution to the distant starlight problem.

Lisleʼs Additional Guesses

Among Lisleʼs added guesses is that God could have created galaxies in mid-collision, and created rings of expanding stellar matter in mid-explosion which tell the tale of an explosion long ago that never happened in reality. (One wonders how this helps creationism seem more scientific. Lisle is offering mere guesses to try and uphold his view that the cosmos is only thousands of years old. And one need not stop piling on such guesses, but might just as well continue guessing with equal abandon that maybe God created some species in the act of already going extinct [in mid-extinction], or created the earth with fossils of long dead [long exploded] species already buried in the earth that never took a breath in the first place.)

Lisle denies that any new stars are forming because Genesis 1 says that God made “the sun, moon, and the stars also,” and “set them in the firmament” on “Day four,” and God never mentions anything about new stars being created or formed after He created the heavens and the earth. So Jason denies that new stars continue to arise in various places throughout the cosmos. (I hope Jason has a Google Alert set for the phrase “star formation” because I get several hits on that topic every week from some of the best astronomy sites on the internet.)

The star-forming region, known as Monoceros R2, sits in a massive dark cloud thatʼs rich in molecules and dust. The scene is packed with massive, young stars.

The central parts of the starburst galaxy NGC 1313. The very active state of this galaxy is very evident from the image, showing many star formation regions. A great number of supershell nebulae, that is, cocoon of gas inflated and etched by successive bursts of star formation, are visible.

Lisle also continues to promote the view that the “circle of the earth” in Isaiah is a revelation from God of the earthʼs sphericity, when it is no such thing, click here for instance, though many Evangelicals have already debunked such a claim after noting how “circle of the earth” always referred to a flat earth in the ancient world.

How About the Evidence for Stellar Evolution & the Long Lives that Stars Appear to Have Behind Them as Well as Ahead of Them?

To quote one young-earth creationistʼs admission…

“Perhaps the most important remaining question [in astronomy] for [young- universe] creationists is the origin of the turnoff points in the H-R diagrams of different clusters. The stars are real physical objects and presumably follow physical laws; we would rather not take the easy way out by saying simply that ‘God made them that way.’ But if creationists take the position of rejecting stellar evolution, they should provide a feasible alternative.”
—Paul Steidl [young-universe creationist], The Earth, the Stars, and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), p. 153 — as quoted by Howard J. Van Till in The Fourth Day: What the Bible and the Heavens Are Telling Us about the Creation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p. 239

To quote a similar admission by another young-earth creationist…

“The theory of stellar structure appears to be founded on a good physical basis and…stellar evolution is intimately related to stellar structure… If creationists wish to scrap stellar evolution completely, then it is incumbent on us to rework stellar structure and/or physics in a convincing fashion… The standard observational tool used in studying stellar structure and evolution is the Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagram… It consists of a plot of stellar luminosity increasing upward and temperature increasing to the left…Most stars are found on a roughly diagonal band called the main sequence (MS)… This agreement is quite impressive and the physical assumptions that go into it are so well founded it is doubtful that many creationists would have much to argue with in main sequence (MS) stellar structure. However, what is generally called post MS evolution is not far removed from the brief outline of stellar structure given above. The most massive stars may pass through successive steps of fusing helium nuclei with increasingly more massive nuclei up to iron…Note that these transitions have not actually been observed. However, they are based on physics principles and will naturally occur… The upshot is that the most massive stars have MS lifetimes of only a few hundred thousand years (of course, still much longer than young-age creationists would allow), while the lowest mass stars have MS lifetimes approaching 100 billion years… And evolutionary assumption concludes that the stars in a star cluster should form from a single cloud so that the members represent…a homogenous group. Different clusters should have different ages, and though they technically have different compositions, even large differences in composition do not seriously affect the overall appearance of an H-R diagram…”

“The agreement of the theory [of stellar evolution] is quite impressive…”

“[The expected evolutionary] trend between globular and open clusters is observed…”

“Evidence [exists] that the formation of planetary nebulae and the evolution of white dwarfs are related…These two ages have a very good correlation…”

“A similar relationship holds for neutron stars and supernova remnants. As with planetary nebulae, the expansion velocity and observed size of the remnant can be used to estimate the time since the explosion…Where a pulsar can be identified in a supernova remnant, the ages of the remnant and the pulsar are well correlated.”

“Very brief discussions of stellar structure and evolution have been presented. Though it would seem that creationists would not have much with which to quarrel in the former, most would largely dismiss the latter. However, the two are intimately related, and one cannot be rejected without seriously calling into question the other. We are appealing to readers to give much attention to the study of stellar evolution.”
—Danny R. Faulkner and Don B. De Young [young-universe creationists], “Toward a Creationist Astronomy,” Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 28, Dec. 1991, pp. 87-91

Additional Difficulties For Young-Earth Creationism & Admissions

YECʼs admit that SN 1987A poses a problem

This webpage consists of an email thread from a discussion group at the American Scientific Affiliation website, a major national organization consisting of Christian men and women who are professional scientists, most of whom are old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists, with some young-earthers. The ASA is older than Henry Morrisʼ ICR and Morris actually quit the ASA to form the ICR after having some of his pet young-earth and flood geology hypotheses questioned by scientists who were ASA members.

What Does the Bible Say?

The Bible does not list the number of planets in our solar system. Back then, planets were called “wandering stars” because they appeared to be tiny lights in the sky like all other “stars,” but the ancients noted that some “stars” did not rotate in the same enormous circle each night round the pole star as did all the rest. In fact, the word “planet” is derived from the Greek word for “wanderer.” The “wandering stars” known by the ancients included Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Add the above five “wanderers” to the sun and moon which also traced their own unique paths across the sky, and you get a total of seven major heavenly objects that stood out from the stars. The ancients imagined that these seven were special gods overseeing the earth below. For instance, the Babylonians referred to the “watchful eye” of Shamash, the sun, who notes all things; and a prayer to Nergal (Mars) states, “With Sin (the Moon) in Heaven thou perceivest all things.” Compare the Hebrew notion that “these seven [lights] are the eyes of the Lord which range [wander] to and fro throughout the earth” (Zechariah 4:10). Nor does the Bible reveal that its authors were aware of the earth being one more “wandering star” like the rest. Instead, “the heavens and the earth” are spoken of as the two halves of creation with the earth forming a firm foundation and the heavens “spread out” above it in an equally “firm” fashion.

According to Genesis 1:16 only “two” great lamps were created. The Hebrew term translated as “great lights” in Genesis, means literally, “great lamps”—the two great lamps being the “Sun” and the “moon.” (Calvin in his Commentary on Genesis, agreed that the moon shone with some light reflected from the sun, but he also stubbornly asserted that the moon “must… be a fiery body… it is also luminous.”) They had no recognition of the fact that every twinkle in the sky might be another great lamp like the sun, or that other moon existed, circling other worlds, some of those worlds having many more moons than our own. Rather, the Bible depicts stars as relatively small objects, created after the earth and “set” in the firmament above it.

Astronomers, not theologians, discovered that we live on one planet out of 9 known planets in our solar system, circling one star out of nearly a billion in our galaxy, a star that lies near the end of one curved arm of that galaxy with two trillion or more additional galaxies lying hidden in the depths of space—and only sighted recently by mankindʼs first space telescopes. Furthermore, beyond our system of planets lay a gargantuan ring of matter, i.e., the Kuiper belt (visually confirmed in the late 1990s), and our Kuiper belt resembles similar rings of matter that have been observed circling nearby stars. So it is assumed that our star looks from a distance pretty much like other nearby stars. Most recently, hundreds of planets have been detected circling nearby stars, including some visual confirmations. As astronomers continue to develop more powerful telescopes they have begun to focus on smaller planets orbiting nearby stars, planets the size of earth. As far as such scientific visions of the cosmos are concerned, one does not seek them out in the Bible. Yet many Christians today continue to seek out “scientific” truths in the Bible.


1. Dr. Lisle points out that varying the “speed of light” part of Einsteinʼs equation, E[energy]=M[matter] times C[the speed of light] squared, would result in difficulties concerning mass and hence gravity (objects falling off the planet), or even result in difficulties concerning energy (with radioactive decay happening so fast that deadly mutations multiplied, and the planet might even melt). For instance. Lisle states,

“The speed of light might have been much greater than it is today. But thereʼs some potential problems with this model, and this is why a lot of creationists have abandoned this idea… You see, the speed of light is not arbitrary. It is linked to nature. There are a lot of things that depend on the speed of light being “just so.” Let me give you one example. Another famous equation, E=mc2, Einsteinʼs famous formula. And that equation relates energy and mass. E = the energy of something, and m = the mass that that something possesses, and those two quantities are related by the speed of light which is the c in that equation, the speed of light squared in fact, which is quite large, because the speed of light is large, the speed of light squared is very very large. Which means that if something has very little mass to it, it has an enormous amount of energy… [So if the speed of light was infinite or near infinite at creation and then slowed down to its present speed] either energy (e) had to go down or mass (m) had to go up. One of those two things would have had to have happened. So you imagine earth orbiting the sun, it orbits because itʼs got orbital energy (e) so if the speed of light decreased, the energy drops and the earth would plummet into the sun potentially, and thatʼs not good. The other possibility is that maybe the mass (m) goes up to compensate for that change in the speed of light, and that would work too, but if the earth and the sun become more massive, the gravity increases and the earth falls into the sun again. So you get sort of the same answer. So this argument only works if other constants also decreased rapidly at the same rate as a change in the speed of light… Another point is, is this testable? What would we expect to see in the universe if in fact the speed of light has decayed? Iʼve looked at a lot of images of the universe. Thereʼs nothing that shouts out to me that the speed of light has decreased in time.”
—Dr. Jason Lisle—The Distant Starlight Mystery (2/5)

Steinmetz: Giver of Electricity to the World, and Freethinker in Matters of Religion

Steinmetz: Freethinker, Giver of Electricity to the World

Charles P. Steinmetz [above right] stands with another freethinker, Thomas Edison [above left] and Elihu Thomson as one of the founding fathers of electricity. The devices and methods that Steinmetz developed are largely concerned with those parts of electricity that are hidden from the public eye, like the invention of generators that produce electricity as well as the transformers sitting powerfully quiet in their little houses outside generating stations. Few have wondered why the high-tension lines strung on tall steel towers are seldom damaged by lightning, but again we can thank Steinmetz for that. Without Steinmetzʼs work, electricity would be about half as useful as it is. Also, Dr. Steinmetzʼs tale of escape from Prussia, battle with polio, and rise to fame in the U.S. is a classic story of survival and success.

Toward the end of his life he was asked increasingly about his religious beliefs, and he even shared an extended conversation with noted Christian fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan. More on that aspect of his life can be read below.

Key Points:

  • One of the Pioneers of AC Power. Steinmetz figured out the mathematics involved in hysteresis. Hysteresis loops show the behavior of magnetism in materials. Understanding magnetism in iron cores was and is still key to design of motors, generators, ballasts and other electrical devices. Steinmetz figured out the great mystery that has stumped all the greats of the time (Thomson, Tesla, Westinghouse, Shallenberger, Edison).

  • Became an icon as the star engineer of General Electric in the Alternating Current Age. Founder of the GE Research Lab (now GE Global Research).

  • Distinguished Professor at Union College.

  • Helped many researchers achieve success on numerous technologies without claiming credit or collecting many patents for himself.

  • A believer in socialism, he thought that through automation in factories and in our personal lives (appliances) that we could eliminate the need for ‘serfs’ doing manual labor and that governments or companies could share the profits gained from automation to support the freed ‘slaves’ of feudal systems. Little did he know that increased profits from automation benefit stock share holders most of whom are already wealthy and unwilling to share that wealth, therefore the profits do not benefit the poor but have simply made the rich richer.

Steinmetz and the Ministers

Inevitably the reporters began to ask Steinmetz for his religious articles of faith. Steinmetz in his opinions never attacked anyone. He didnʼt care enough, and definite attack was a weapon which he never used. So the ministers welcomed his comments and never denounced him as an atheist. One liberal denominational magazine, the Unitarian Christian Register, even asked him to write two articles for it on his beliefs. These articles drew the inevitable line between scientific weighing of evidence and religious taking on authority but they did it in so conciliating a way that no one got angry. Steinmetz gave to religion that minute loophole which is all it needs to ask.

“There is,” said Steinmetz, “no evidence outside of science for God, immortality, and similar conceptions,and there is evidence against these conceptions in science, and science has justified its methods and conclusions by the work it has accomplished.

“But it is hard for man to get along without belief in these conceptions. We may get along without a God but not without immortality. Our self-conceit dislikes to place so little value on ourselves, our knowledge, our skill, experience—in short our Ego to concede that all this is merely a function of the biochemical process of life which will utterly cease and vanish with the disintegration of the protoplasm of the body by death.

“But all conclusions of science depend on our observation by means of the senses. Religion deals with the infinite which cannot be conceived by the senses. Also we reason by means of logic, whose rules are only thought to be true because of experience.

“This, the negative answer of science on the question whether there are conceptive entities of infinite character, as infinite in time and space, immortality of the Ego, God, etc., is not conclusive, and the question is as open as before.

“There can be no scientific foundation of religion, and belief must always remain the foundation of religion, while that of science is logical reasoning from facts, that is, sense conception. All that he can say is that the two, science and religion, are not necessarily incompatible, but are different and unrelated activities of the human mind.”

An Insulated Conversation

Steinmetzʼs tour of speech-making carried him to nearly every town of importance on the Pacific Coast, and everywhere he was greeted with the same enthusiasm. The papers ran almost verbatim stories of his addresses and editorial after editorial appeared in praise of the man who had made hydro-electric power, which in turn had made the Pacific Coast. They take their electricity very seriously out there. It largely replaces coal and the people are duly grateful to the men who make it possible.

On the train back to Chicago he had an interesting encounter. William Jennings Bryan was on board and asked to meet him. Steinmetz was sitting alone in his stateroom looking out of the window when Bryan entered. He at once recognized the familiar face of the pseudo-statesman with the light of fanaticism burning in his eyes. He greeted him warmly and Bryan immediately broached the matter nearest his heart—the only matter which really interested him. He was looking for sentimental loopholes in Steinmetzʼs disbelief.

Bryan in private with no others present to whom he could orate was very different from Bryan on the public platform. He deplored disbelief in his rather simple-minded God but he realized there was no use displaying his feelings when he had no audience which could be induced by appeals to emotion to sympathize with him. So the discussion was calm and reasonable. Steinmetz had nothing to lose by frankness and Bryan had nothing to gain by emphasis.

Steinmetz enjoyed hugely this meeting with the leader of all that was silly in religion and politics but for the life of him he couldnʼt develop any antagonism.

Bryan was so pleasant and conciliating. They talked for a long time, coming to no agreement on anything but discounting rather than opposing each otherʼs opinions because there was no one else there to hear them disagree.

Bryan asked most of the questions, presumably because Steinmetz realized that there was no use trying to get facts, the only things which interested him, out of a reservoir which contained nothing but sentiment. Bryan was not interested in facts and Steinmetz presumably had as large a stock of sentiment as any man.

Pleasantly and reasonably Steinmetz explained the position of the orthodox scientist. He granted that the inherent irrationality of human nature left some distant field for religion but disclaimed any desire to explore that field for himself. He advocated the study of the Bible by children, for he considered it a great book and one containing remarkably little religion.

Bryan listened politely enough, rocklike in his conviction that science was a fraud and revelation the only true knowledge. The two parted in a friendly state of mind, Steinmetz to return to his somewhat dusty test tubes and Bryan to continue tilling the sterile soil of rural faith.

This meeting with Bryan is a fitting last episode in the life of the enthusiastic little scientist. His useful work was almost over now and he could afford to smile indulgently at those human weaknesses which would have aroused him to fury in earlier years. So on parting he pressed warmly the hand of the Great Mogul of bucolic bigotry who was shortly to meet his Leipsig at Madison Square Garden and his Waterloo at Dayton, Tennessee.

The End

There isnʼt much more to fell. Steinmetzʼs life is nearly over now. He is fifty-eight and his body has decided to stop running. All considered, it did remarkably well to keep going so long. At least it nourished the brain during the vital years which bore such important scientific fruit. If it had been looking for excuses it could have found plenty. Every life process had to run in zigzags.

The Pacific Coast trip was the last effort the body was able to complete. On his return to Schenectady Steinmetz sank rapidly. He found it difficult to walk from the train to the taxi and when he reached home the doctor told him to stay in bed awhile and rest.
Perhaps he recognized the death sentence so gently pronounced. Probably he did not. At any rate he stayed quietly in his room, protesting now and then because he couldnʼt go to his laboratory, but devouring scientific literature as greedily as ever.

One morning about breakfast time Hayden went up to see him. Steinmetz was awake and cheerful but he seemed uncomfortable. Hayden told him to take his heart medicine. Heʼd bring him his breakfast presently.

“Keep still. Donʼt try to do anything.”

“All right,” said Steinmetz, settling himself back on the pillow. “Iʼll lie down.” Those were his last words.

Presently up came little Billy Hayden with the breakfast tray. He found Steinmetz lying as peacefully as ever, but dead. His heart had stopped. On his face was no sign of pain or surprise. He had died as naturally as an electric motor. The current was cut off. The motor lost momentum, ran slower, and stopped. That was all. Wonderfully soon the news reached the General Electric offices and the officials of the company came up in a body to pay their respects. Telegrams began to arrive from all over the country. Scientific societies, electrical companies, and plain individuals at home and abroad sent their last thanks to the man who had made their work so much easier to do.

The funeral was almost a state function. Steinmetzʼs name had penetrated to the most preoccupied minds and everyone high and low came to see him buried. How Steinmetz would have loved it all I The reporters. The lieutenant governor. The president and chairman of the company. Scientists and magnates in flocks. All genuinely sorry and genuinely worshipful as they carried the small, light coffin to the graveyard.

SOURCE: Loki: The Life of Charles Proteus Steinmetz by Jonathan Norton Leonard, New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company Inc., 1932

See also,