It’s a small Universe after all

By Phil Plait | August 14, 2007 2:00 pm

Via Big Dumb Chimp and the SciAm blog comes news that the Universe is only 12,000 light years across:

The BCC [Biblically Compact Cosmology] Theory Of Everything applies the rigorous equation D=2R to the scientifically impeccable premise that it takes light a year to travel a light year. As the radius of the Universe R, equals the number of light years since Genesis : ~4004+2007=6,011; the B.C.C.T.O.E. concludes that surely as Numbers follows Leviticus, The Universe must be 12,022 light-years across !

This (satirical) post really points out the absurdity of trying to use the Bible as a scientific tome when we know it cannot be utilized as such. However, despite the sarcasm of that post, people really do believe the Universe is 6000 years old, and thus have to dance and squirm and equivocate to make that jibe with the overwhelming (one might call it a Flood) of observational evidence to the contrary.

An interesting corollary is that if the Universe is that small, and we know it contains 1022 stars or so (roughly one hundred billion stars in each of a hundred billion galaxies), there must be 10 billion stars per cubic light year. From that you can calculate the average distance between stars: roughly 3 billion miles, or the distance from the Sun to Pluto. Wow!

As I pointed out on that page when I left a comment about this, however, we have made a fundamental mistake in our assumptions: the stars, of course, are mounted on crystalline spheres. No doubt the Voyager probes will smash through them any day now. Expect a press release from the Discovery Institute when they do.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Astronomy, Humor, Religion

Comments (111)

  1. Zyjek
  2. Edward Cohen

    What are the two numbers that were added up?
    4004 2007= the radius of the universe.

  3. Dan

    People who try to use the Bible as a science manual (satirically or not) always make me smile. Seriously, man. The universe is simply a hell of a lot more fascinating and exciting without the Bronze Age voodoo.

  4. Ken

    Edward Cohen asked:
    > What are the two numbers that were added up?
    > 4004 2007= the radius of the universe.

    The Universe was created in 4004 BCE, and the current year is 2007 AD. Therefore, the Universe is 4004+2007=6011 years old.

  5. Ken

    Of course, you forgot the obvious explanation…

    “The Universe was created to look like it was billions of years old.” (Including the light from those stars so far away.)

    It’s a handy answer that explains any contradiction between the Bible and physical evidence.

  6. howabout a static FLRW cosmology (with the attraction of the sun being negated by Angels, of course); that would make the problem not the distance to the stars but redshift, which is much harder for fundies to want to understand.

  7. Jim Shaver

    Wow, 10^22 stars in the universe! How many stars is that, really? Assume the universe is 13.5 billion years old. That’s 4.93×10^12 Earth days, or 1.18×10^14 hours, or 4.26×10^17 seconds, or 4.26×10^23 microseconds. So we have approximately one star for every 42 microseconds that have elapsed since the beginning of the universe! And we are not counting stars that blew up far enough in the past that we can no longer see them…

    I’d say it’s the average time between star creation, not the universe, that’s small.

  8. Jeff

    Where naive scientists get it all amazingly wrong, is that they just don’t realize that the stars are quite flat – just like the earth. The stars are more or less painted on the firmament a few thousand miles above us. If you could poke a hole in the firmament, heaven and God would be on the other side, although angels would certainly get to you before you could try. And don’t believe all those phony propaganda photos showing a round moon, mars, etc. They’re all flat as pancakes, and the world’s governments have been covering it up for some time now. Most people could never handle the full biblical truth.

  9. Except that it should be 4003+2007 = 2010, because there is no year zero. (Yes, I know astronomers sometimes cheat on this and introduce a fictitious year zero, adjusting all BC dates by one, but Archbishop Ussher wasn’t using that convention.)

    By the way, “…the stars, of course, are mounted on crystalline spheres” repeats a mistake made by Shakespeare in “The Merchant of Venice”. In the Ptolemaic system, all the fixed stars are in a single sphere. The seven planets (the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) occupy seven spheres nested within it, with a ninth sphere, the /Primum/ /Mobile/, outside.

  10. But don’t you know? The speed of light was FASTER when the universe was created!

    Yeah, right…my video debunking that is here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRmJbP25m-Y

  11. tsg

    Of course, you forgot the obvious explanation…

    “The Universe was created to look like it was billions of years old.” (Including the light from those stars so far away.)

    It’s a handy answer that explains any contradiction between the Bible and physical evidence.

    Until you ask, “then how do you know it’s not?”

  12. Chip Gentry

    >>“The Universe was created to look like it was billions of years old.” (Including the light from those stars so far away.)
    >>
    >>It’s a handy answer that explains any contradiction between the Bible and physical evidence.
    >>
    >Until you ask, “then how do you know it’s not?”

    I would think a Biblical argument may only rely on what is actually in the Bible, so, you don’t get to ask “how do you know it’s not” on a whim.

  13. SLC

    The YECs have another argument which admits that the distant galaxies are billions of light years away. They claim that the universe was created in the vicinity of the earth and that gravitational time dilation results in clocks on the earth running much slower then elsewhere so that the light from those galaxies actually only took 6000 earth years to reach the earth. This hypothesis was proposed by one Russell Humphries. Of course, they don’t explain why no immense blue shift in the light is observed which would be predicted by gravitational effects strong enough to dilate time from billions of years to 6000 years.

  14. Mark Martin

    Ken said: 14 Aug 2007 at 2:40 pm

    “Of course, you forgot the obvious explanation…

    “The Universe was created to look like it was billions of years old.” (Including the light from those stars so far away.)

    It’s a handy answer that explains any contradiction between the Bible and physical evidence.”

    It’s also an arbitrary, ad-hoc answer. It prompts the question, Why would one even bother to look at the Universe if one intends to just ignore it?

  15. Wayne

    SLC,
    That’s because of course they don’t understand relativity at all, they just heard something about “time dilation” and thought they’d work it in somehow.

  16. andy

    There I was thinking you were going to refer to this paper about the possibility that we live in a small universe (which may be in a topological sense toroidal), though in that case the definition of “small” is 5000 cubic gigaparsecs.

    Hey, the estimates only differ by 20 orders of magnitude, which is rather better agreement than certain predictions on the vacuum energy of the universe…

  17. Every time you look through the telescope, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there drawing false images with His Noodly Appendage. This is to test your faith. Do not stray from the path of Pastafarianism! Wear the sacred pirate regalia! Can I get a RAmen?!

  18. bassmanpete

    Like a rapidly expanding balloon, it (the Universe) swelled from a size smaller than an electron to nearly its current size within a tiny fraction of a second.

    While we’re on the subject of the Universe, the above quote appeared in a space.com article yesterday. I’m confused, this is the third time I’ve heard this yet others say inflation only expanded the Universe to the size of a grapefruit or basketball. Which is correct? The latter sounds like it wouldn’t make any difference one way or the other & the former sounds just too incredible.

  19. Phil, you are assuming that GOD created the universe from a single point.

    Perhaps god made the universe only slightly smaller than it is now and with an outward expansion pre-built into the design, thus making it appear to have started at one point. He also sent many photons on their way to us, showing images and with distributions which made it appear that the only logical conclusion is that they showed systems from millions or billions of years ago and had been traveling that long.

    This is obviously well known, and I am surprised that you did not realize this. I am sure you are also aware that God created uranium and thorium ore specifically tweaking the isotopic composition to make it appear that it was billions of years old. This is totally in agreement with the pre-aged dinosaur bones he put in the ground, along with the other species and the fact that he made species look like they may have things in common or have vestigial features. Obviously this was simply to create the illusion of evolution, when infact he made them *POOF*

    All your “scientific evidence” cannot disprove the contention that “The Universe Was Created And Micromanaged From the Ground Up For The Express Purpose Of Making It Appear to Be Something It Was Not and Provide Evidence From Which No Other Reasonable Conclusion, Other Than It Is Billions of Years Old Can be Drawn.”

    Why did he do this? We cannot answer and dare not ask such a heretical question. He works in mysterious ways. Why can’t you figure that out? If there is something about this that does not seem to make sense to you it’s because god wanted it that way…

    And if you dare try to call him on it… well I hope you like the idea of infinity burning in unending agony in a lake of torturous fire.

    BECAUSE THAT IS HOW MUCH HE LOVES YOU! NOW BE GRATEFUL FOR THAT!

  20. Folcrom

    The Bible is really, primarily a book of genealogy and family history.
    Not much else.

    Folcrom.

  21. Melusine

    Being that I’m in Texas (at least for the time being), I invite Don McLeroy and the Texas State Board of Education to watch the two NOVA programs on PBS tonight August 14th starting at 7:00 p.m. CST. The first one hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson is about the origins of Earth, the program at 8:00 p.m. is about the origins of life on Earth. Both entail MILLIONS of years, just in case McLeroy needs a refresher/reminder.

    **Just a public service message from the reality-based community**

  22. Just Al

    Almost, drbuzz0, almost! Had half of my rebuttal typed out. Getting slow in my old age…

  23. Davidlpf

    Jim Shaver, can you not have people giving birth at the same time. There most of been an era when stars were starting glow at the same time all over universe at once, especially when you think matter was denser then it is today. What a wonderful sight that would of been.
    Another thing the 6010/6011 year old universe would not of given time for the light to travel from the center of our own galaxy to us let alone any other galaxy.

  24. Dom

    You’re pretty cool Phil. But don’t let it go to your head.

    Now get back to work!

  25. Quiet_Desperation

    I *thought* it was feeling cramped in here! :)

    >>> Phil, you are assuming that GOD created the
    >>> universe from a single point.

    Brane collisions.

    >>> Like a rapidly expanding balloon, it (the Universe)
    >>> swelled from a size smaller than an electron to
    >>> nearly its current size within a tiny fraction of a second.

    Inflationary Theory is DOOMED! :) It’s getting too creaky and patched up for my tastes.

    I’m finding myself drawn to the Cyclic Theory these days.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclic_Universe_Theory

    Wicked good book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Endless-Universe-Beyond-Big-Bang/dp/0385509642

    The authors are two of the founders of the current cyclic theory as it’s drawn from he various string theories.

    >>> The Bible is really, primarily a book of genealogy
    >>> and family history.

    There’s certainly a lot of begetting. :-) Or is it begatting?

    That’s where the phrase “I’d like ta begetting’ some o dat!” comes from.

    >>> And if you dare try to call him on it… well I hope
    >>> you like the idea of infinity burning in unending
    >>> agony in a lake of torturous fire.

    You see, talk like that just makes me want to take up arms against God and knock his ass off his throne. Viva la Revolucion!

    Actually, there an SF book by Roger Zelazny where this sort of happens:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creatures_of_Light_and_Darkness

    The “Agnostic’s Prayer” might be one of the most brilliant parodies of religion ever put to print.

  26. Quiet_Desperation

    The Agnostic’s Prayer (AKA Possibly Proper Death Litany), by Roger Zelazny

    “Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.”

    Geez, I miss that guy. I want more Amber books. :( Proper ones, not the ones pimped out to other authors.

  27. Quiet_Desperation

    >>> Except that it should be 4003+2007 = 2010,
    >>> because there is no year zero.

    God hates math geeks, you know.

  28. No, the way to debunk the bible is not through astronomy or any other science. The bible debunks itself. If it is literal truth then how to explain the discrepancies in its most important story. Compare the Four Gospels against one another on the ressurection itself. You will find many gross contradictions. Memorize them.

    Then when next missionaries come to your door, invite them in. Then quiz them on the topic from their very own bibles. Most will be wholly unaware of these errors, having studied only one gospel at a time. You’ll be doing them a favor.

    Create your own websites to highlight these contradictions, being sure to quote from the bible itself. Ask how their god explains that? Did he lie? Or what?

  29. Buzz Parsec

    So if the universe were compressed down to 6000 lightyears radius, the average distance between closest stars would be about the distance of Pluto? 1) So Pluto’s not a planet. It’s a star! :-) :-)

    2) I’m surprised by how empty the universe would still be. After all, Pluto is way far away. Think how long it would take if you locked your keys in your spaceship and had to walk home from there!

    3) The intro to THHGTTG… Space is big. It is really, really big. Etc.

  30. Sergeant Zim

    Shane:

    RAmen!

    May you be pleasantly stroked by His Noodly Appendage, and may Garlic and Marinara follow you all the meals of your life.

  31. nate

    Pssst! Phil! I’ve got a secret for you. We know how many stars there are because of how bright galaxies appear and how far away they are. If all those objects were closer, they wouldn’t have as many stars. In fact, they would all be nebulae.

  32. Jess Tauber

    Not to worry- when V-jer crashes through the crystal sphere that dead would-be thief/father guy from the musical Carousel will be there to patch it up. If he’d just prayed instead of knocking up his girlfriend he would have had a better gig. A little glue and some solar windex oughta do it.

    Besides, there aren’t that many stars- them spheres is all mirra’ed, which reflects well on the True Word. ((which is ‘Yikes!’))

    Jess Tauber

  33. Breniir

    I just find Phil’s last paragraph to be amazing – 10 billion stars in a cubic light-year, and on average, they’d be 3 billion miles apart. It’s just mind numbing how much volume that is, let alone the amount of empty interstellar space in reality.

  34. Sue Mitchell

    You forgot to mention that the earth is flat and glides through the universe on the backs of four elephants riding on the back of the giant turtle, A’Tuin.

    Also that God really exists and is living with all the other gods at Dunmanifestin’ on the top of Cori Celesti.

    [From the Gospel according to Saint Terry.]
    :-D

  35. MattFunke

    Ken:
    Of course, you forgot the obvious explanation…

    “The Universe was created to look like it was billions of years old.” (Including the light from those stars so far away.)

    It’s a handy answer that explains any contradiction between the Bible and physical evidence.

    Not so handy, really, because that makes God out to be a liar. Romans 1:20 contends that the “invisible attributes” of God are “clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (quoting from the NASB). If God made the Universe to look old when it really isn’t, is one of those “invisible attributes” deception?

    (The only marginally sensible reply I’ve gotten to this is that science has merely misinterpreted all of its data so far, and that if it was properly understood, we’d know that the Earth and the Universe are young. This argument ignores the sheer volume of data about the age of the Earth and the Universe that’s out there, though, as well as the fact that it all shows a consistent history.)

    SLC: The YECs have another argument which admits that the distant galaxies are billions of light years away. They claim that the universe was created in the vicinity of the earth and that gravitational time dilation results in clocks on the earth running much slower then elsewhere so that the light from those galaxies actually only took 6000 earth years to reach the earth.

    Then why does the Earth itself appear to be significantly older than 6000 years? This time dilation, if it occurred, should have influenced all the clocks on Earth (geologic, ice core, tree ring, radioisotope, etc.) to show the same (brief) time. If this explanation holds water, why does the Earth appear to be billions of years old?

  36. Moose

    I think that’s what I love so much about astronomy. A mild-mannered field that, partnered with physics and math, quietly show to what extent science is interrelated and utterly interdependent. Astronomy is really good at keeping us humble when we most need it.

    And does it ever come up with pretty pictures.

  37. What astounds me is how wrong all of you are. We know for a fact that the universe is nearly 60 Trillion years old. L. Ron Rubbard says so in his book, A History of Man.

    Anything contrary to that speaks of your inability to open up.

    Did some psychiatrist trick you into taking some of this control medication?

    I think all of you are due for a Purification Rundown, Stat.

  38. MattFunke

    Moose: I think that’s what I love so much about astronomy. A mild-mannered field that, partnered with physics and math, quietly show to what extent science is interrelated and utterly interdependent.

    It also shows us how good our theories are in situations that are far more extreme than anything we could cook up in the laboratory. The masses are greater, the energies more fierce, and the scope more immense.

    In spite of that, you make an excellent point — there’s a real serenity to it. At the same time we gape at the unleashed fury of a supernova, we marvel at the beauty of its aftermath.

    Moose: Astronomy is really good at keeping us humble when we most need it.

    That is just one thing I find so infuriating about YECism. Their universe is so small, since Earth is its focus; anything that happens anywhere must somehow be interpreted as a message about their own significance. And time to them is insignificant, too; since I have an interest in ancient history, I feel I can almost wrap my head around 6000 years. But thirteen point seven billion years? No way.

    The Universe dwarfs us, in space and in time, and we should learn from that.

  39. If you are a super uber magician, it should be no big deal to create a huge universe and simply put all the photons exactly where they should be to fool the earthlings, because earthlings are uber important and you do this all for them.

    It’s the unadulterated arrogance of religion that initially made me question it. Who are we to believe we are so important that any superior beings, we can call them “gods” for a short name, would care about us, let alone make us their “chosen”, or play tricks on us like making fossils or the universe appear to be really old when it isn’t.

    It really makes me wonder how those people can face each day in such ignorance.

  40. SLC

    Re MattFunke

    Hey, I didn’t say for one instant that I believed in Humphreys crap. I provided one takedown. For other takedowns, visit old earth creationist Hugh Rosses’ web site (referenced on talkorigins). This issue came up when I made the mistake of getting into a discussion of the age of the earth with a YEC calling himself Jon on Jason Rosenhouses’ blog. I should have followed Stephen J. Goulds’ advice and refrained from debating with him. As Mr. Wayne commented, and Ross discusses, Humphreys doesn’t understand the Theory of Relativity.

  41. MattFunke

    SLC: Hey, I didn’t say for one instant that I believed in Humphreys crap. I provided one takedown.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you did. I merely provided another to show that Humphreys’ idea is foolish on several obvious fronts.

    That’s the beauty of scientific theories: they have to fit all the available data. There’s often more than one way to debunk a poor explanation.

    Thanks for the pointers to more information, though.

    SLC: I should have followed Stephen J. Goulds’ advice and refrained from debating with him.

    I’m still mixed about the issue. When I was a YECist and began to see that the rhetoric just didn’t fit the facts, I was too timid to ask questions on my own. The last thing I wanted was to hear the same old (easily debunked) arguments from the YECism camp, with exhortations to buck up and just accept the line that’s being fed to you. But lurking and watching the debates being held online — especially involving those who had a few facts they could throw out as to why scientists use the theories they currently do — gave me places to start so that I look up more detail on my own.

    That was vital. I, for one, am glad for those people who bother to debate on the side of reason and evidence. They may not convince the ones who are blustering away at them, but neither is it an entirely fruitless exercise. They may probably never see the fruits of your labor, which is a shame, but as long as they accept that they aren’t likely to change the minds of the vocal, I see no problem with debating.

    Besides, it doesn’t say much for our supposed commitment to “truth” or “reason” or “evidence” if we’re unwilling to use them when opposition arises. We can’t address it all, obviously — to think that we can is making a gross error — but completely refraining from engagement seems to be making the opposite mistake.

  42. MattFunke

    They may probably never see the fruits of your labor…

    Urg. “They may probably never see the fruits of their labor.

    Sorry about that.

  43. Darth Robo

    Did “Jon” know that Hugh Ross thinks UFO’s come from the Devil?

    :-p

  44. onechance

    Sorry to be offtopic, and offend Christians, but the Bible is just a book isn’t it?
    Like is there gonna be a religion out there in the future that worships Aragon?

  45. Noah Kronemeyer

    @Ken up top: Exactly – that’s why God created Adam as a full grown man, and not a baby. He created the universe as a “full grown universe”… and not a baby.

  46. TheBlackCat

    Where naive scientists get it all amazingly wrong, is that they just don’t realize that the stars are quite flat – just like the earth. The stars are more or less painted on the firmament a few thousand miles above us. If you could poke a hole in the firmament, heaven and God would be on the other side, although angels would certainly get to you before you could try.

    On the other side of the firmament is the “other waters” that God separated from the oceans when he created the Earth (the whole universe was originally just water, of course). When God wants it to rain he opens little holes in the firmament and lets some of the water out (but why it is fresh water when the oceans are salt water is not clear). If you poked a hole in the firmament you would have a facefull of water and perhaps a major flood if you made it too big. It is the ultimate moat, a handy defense against anyone trying to break into heaven. Those Tower of Babel folks were idiots, they could never have gotten through and the waters would have ruined the upholstery. Of course then there was no reason for God to make them speak other languages, but God works in mysterious ways!

  47. MattFunke

    When the “Apparent Age” or Mature creation argument is used, the counter to God deceives us is that God has plainly told us in his word what he did.

    Suppose I have someone round to dinner, and because I did not have time, just before my guests arrive I get a wonderful takeaway and put it on the plates and to tidy the place up I get rid of the packaging.

    My guests come and eat the meal, and somehow come to the conclusion that i am an expert at cooking, whatever quisine the takeaway is, and I must have slaved away in the kitchen doing it.

    The appearence is that I cooked it, although I did not

    If I keep stum and let them think I cooked it, I could be thought of as being deceitful. However, suppose I fess up as soon as I come in, and say how I put everything on the nice plates and even give them copies of the menus, saying what a wonderful takeaway it is, I am not being deceitful even if one of the guests is so ingrossed in a something that he does not hear what I said and believes I cooked it.

    As far as that passage in Romans quoted, Romans 1:20 (NASB) I once heard that it taught it meant that from the beginning of time, someone was around to percieve God’s nature. FWIW

  48. MattFunke

    onechance: Sorry to be offtopic, and offend Christians, but the Bible is just a book isn’t it?

    According to some Christians, it’s a book delivered through supernatural means; they take certain passages to mean that the words in it are exactly those words God wanted. As far as I know, none of the books in the Lord of the Rings trilogy makes a claim to be the inspired words of a divine being (unless I missed something big).

    Noah Kronemeyer: Exactly – that’s why God created Adam as a full grown man, and not a baby. He created the universe as a “full grown universe”… and not a baby.

    So if a hypothetical scientist familiar with human physiology landed next to Adam just after his creation, he would have seen the liver spots, tooth enamel wear, skin discoloration, and other signs of aging and decay that would allow him to peg a hypothetical age for Adam? Would he have been able to uncover signs of what happened to Adam in the youth that he never had — e.g., an old cavity in one of his molars, or evidence that he had broken his femur when he was seven, or scars from adolescent acne?

    What does that imply for a hypothetical scientist who would land on Earth just after its creation and be able to determine through his knowledge of chemistry, physics, geology, and astronomy that the Earth responds to every test as if it is about 4.6 billion years old? Why does it all appear to have a consistent history, not just an age?

    Why would God deceive those trying to find out about the Universe as honestly as they can by providing consistent, deceptive answers to all manner of tests?

    What — in Scripture or elsewhere — even hints that God made the Earth or the Universe look old when He created them?

  49. Why would God deceive those trying to find out about the Universe as honestly as they can by providing consistent, deceptive answers to all manner of tests?

    What else is the almighty to do for fun than torque up his creations?

    Let’s face it, being The One True God would be mightily boring. Nothing but sycophantic angels floating around doing your bidding but without free will. No real place to escape when you are everywhere and everything. And worst of all… having to deal with billions and billions of intercessory prayers from your creations, making you regret the day you made them. It’s no wonder God does an occasional mass smiting.

    Young human males tend to be predisposed to using magnifying glasses on ant-hills and such… TOTG made humans in his own image… do you think the almighty could resist torturing humans? Where do you think we get it from?

    Look at the Egyptians… they were oppressing His people, so did he come down and pimp-slap them into oblivion? Nooooo that wouldn’t be fun. Send them diseases, frogs, locusts, flaming rain… yeah, that’s the ticket. And let’s face it… He put religious yahoos in charge of nuclear weapons – that’s got to be part of a master plan for divine amusement.

    God: Yo, Gabriel, check this out.
    Gabriel: Hmm?
    God: I fixed it so this Bush guy is kind of in charge of Earth.
    Gabriel: Isn’t he kind of, I dunno, umm, nuts?
    God: Yeah. That’s the best part. He has access to nuclear weapons too. I’m sending Michael down to whisper weird stuff into his ear like “there’s WMD in the desert”
    Gabriel: LOL! Wasn’t he the one who was sending “messages” to those desert guys to “smite the western infidel” and stuff?
    God: Big time. I’m heating up their little planet too. You know how they get down there when they get a little warm.
    Gabriel: Try not to set it on fire this time. It took 40 days of rain to put it out last time. Wiped out all the dinosaurs, remember… You should have taught them to swim, you know. Fred and Wilma are still kind of PO’d about that.
    God: That’s the best part…I won’t set it on fire, they will.
    Gabriel: Oh God, this will be awesome. I’ll go get the marshmallow skewers and graham crackers.

  50. The Englishman

    I actually accept the scientific basis of the universe but believe that the bible belivers on here are missing saying something that I would like one of our more lerned friends to rebuke.

    Surely god made the universe appear old as a test of faith. He says “whoever believe in me will not perish but have eternal life” and in saying makes belief a key requisite for entry to heaven. Now obviously if the devil had not ensured that man had eaten at the tree of knowledge he would not have noticed that the universe was old and would have got in anyway but seeing as man did exercise free will god would have needed to test faith.

    Testing faith would ensure that only the worthy get in.

  51. MattFunke

    Evolving Squid: What else is the almighty to do for fun than torque up his creations?

    -=shrug=- He’s the Almighty. I’m sure He can think of something. ;)

  52. Gary Ansorge

    Several years ago, while working in the sands of Araby, I wrote a very short story, of a biologist that dies and goes to heaven. The final lines are,”Lucifer says: God, we just got a new soul for your perusal.
    God says: Great! Gulp! Ah, it’s good to be at the top of the food chain,,,”

    Of course, I never let any of my Saudi friends read it,,,being buried upside down in a sand dune really didn’t appeal to me,,,

    Gary 7

  53. TheBlackCat

    @ The Englishman

    So God is a liar out to deceive everyone. This idea is repugnant to many Christians, although it does have considerable support in scripture from the many cases where God intentionally lied to, manipulated, and deceived. It basically requires that God does not want to give salvation, which runs counter to the ideas of many Christians. Of course Jesus said that the reason he uses parables is to keep people out of Heaven, so once again the idea has support in the Bible. Spreading Christianity to save as many people as possible is one of the fundamental tenants of many branches of Christianity, so they simply won’t accept the idea that God does not agree with this course of action and in fact is actively undermining it.

    The response from scientists is that if the universe is identical in every way to an old universe, then there is no way to tell the difference between the two and it is better to just treat it as if it was old (Last Thursdayism, the idea that the universe was created last Thursday with the appearance of age, is a parody of the idea).

  54. Ken

    Gan Uesli Starling said:

    >> Create your own websites to highlight these contradictions,
    >> being sure to quote from the bible itself. Ask how their god
    >> explains that? Did he lie? Or what?

    I guess you’ve never seen this?

    http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/

  55. MattFunke

    The Englishman: Surely god made the universe appear old as a test of faith.

    Isn’t it enough of a test of faith to believe that an infinite God came to Earth as a human and will come again? That’s a pretty big pill to swallow all by its lonesome.

    Besides, that same Scripture says over and over again that the creation reflects the glory of God (Romans 1:18-20; Psalms 19:1-4; Job 12:7-11; and countless others). Why would something that is described as reflecting God’s glory show that He is a liar, especially since Scripture claims that He cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; and Hebrews 6:18)?

    Where does Scripture instruct followers to believe in spite of evidence? (Consider 1 Peter 3:15; Acts 17:11; Deteronomy 18:18-22; John 14:29; Luke 7:22; and countless descriptions of evidence that remained at the time of the writing of fantastic occurrences, including Genesis 35:20; Joshua 4:9, 8:29; Judges 1:21, 6:24; 1 Samuel 6:18; 2 Samuel 18:18; 2 Kings 10:27; Matthew 27:8; and Acts 2:29.) One could make a strong case that followers who “just believe” are getting it wrong. (Isaiah 7:1-13, where King Ahaz is rebuked for not asking God for evidence that what He said was true.)

    Why is it specifically the age of the Earth and the Universe that God chose to use to test faith? Why that, out of all the things He might have chosen to test the faithful, does this person believe that the age of things is it?

  56. MattFunke

    I forgot one of the gems: 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NASB):

    “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;”

    Does this hint that we should examine everything carefully except creation? For crying out loud, what’s left?

  57. L Ron Hubbub

    LOL. People of faith are stupid!!!!1!

  58. Ken

    Evolving Squid said:
    Let’s face it, being The One True God would be mightily boring. Nothing but sycophantic angels floating around doing your bidding but without free will. No real place to escape when you are everywhere and everything.
    There’s always skee-ball.

  59. The Englishman

    MattFunke said

    “creation reflects the glory of God (Romans 1:18-20; Psalms 19:1-4; Job 12:7-11; and countless others). Why would something that is described as reflecting God’s glory show that He is a liar, especially since Scripture claims that He cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; and Hebrews 6:18)?”

    Thanks, Exactly what I was looking for.

  60. Skepterist

    Sticks, your analogy is incomplete.

    You would indeed be deceitful if you made the dinner look like you cooked it yourself. But you can’t stop there. To carry the “Apparent Age” example of scripture even further, you would have to tell your guests that you made the plates yourself, and that you made the table, the tablecloth, the chairs, the very metals that you used to make the silverware, the lights, the air your guests are breathing, and that you even created your guests themselves, with all of their memories and experiences, out of dirt moments before they arrived. And this would be written down in your scripture, and you would insist that all your guests believe you, upon punishment of eternal damnation.

    That is a closer analogy to this idea that God created the universe to look older than it really is.

    B-)

  61. So… just one tiny question for the YECs please.

    If God made the universe to look older than it is…

    why?

  62. MattFunke

    Sorry, Sticks… I completely missed your post somehow.

    Sticks: When the “Apparent Age” or Mature creation argument is used, the counter to God deceives us is that God has plainly told us in his word what he did.

    But there’s no mention in Scripture at all of how or when God created. In this instance, it would appear that God has “kept stum”. (I hope I’m using that right — the phrase is new to me.) He’s apparently interested in telling us that He did it, but not how it was done.

    In your analogy, it’s closer to telling your guests “I brought the food here” than telling them how the food arrived.

    Sticks: However, suppose I fess up as soon as I come in, and say how I put everything on the nice plates and even give them copies of the menus, saying what a wonderful takeaway it is, I am not being deceitful even if one of the guests is so ingrossed in a something that he does not hear what I said and believes I cooked it.

    But that misses the point. The references I pointed to claim that creation itself declares the glory of God and reveals His “invisible attributes”, not statements in Scripture (or elsewhere) about His creation.

    Sticks: As far as that passage in Romans quoted, Romans 1:20 (NASB) I once heard that it taught it meant that from the beginning of time, someone was around to percieve God’s nature.

    Or that we are capable of seeing attributes of God, even if we look at the evidence left behind since the world began. Or any one of a thousand other interpretations; it’s not terribly clear why “since the creation of the world” is used in this passage. In any event, the idea that someone was always around to witness the glory of God in creation seems much less defensible from this passage than that the glory of God can be witnessed in creation.

  63. TheBlackCat

    When the “Apparent Age” or Mature creation argument is used, the counter to God deceives us is that God has plainly told us in his word what he did.

    And what he plainly said was that he created the universe, in its present state, at most 10,000 years ago. But this position conflicts with everything we know about, well, everything. You can say that this was a metaphor or whatever, but that contradicts your position that God has described what happened in a clear and straightforward matter.

    Suppose I have someone round to dinner, and because I did not have time, just before my guests arrive I get a wonderful takeaway and put it on the plates and to tidy the place up I get rid of the packaging.

    My guests come and eat the meal, and somehow come to the conclusion that i am an expert at cooking, whatever quisine the takeaway is, and I must have slaved away in the kitchen doing it…

    But this isn’t what happened. To use your analogy, you don’t just keep your mouth shut, you specifically tell people that you cooked the food yourself, you go into great detail about how you did it, what order you did it, how long it took, what ingredients you used, and your reasons for doing it. Of course you describe it several times and the ordering and ingredients vary each time, you fail to mention many ingredients it is obvious are in there and include some that aren’t, chefs amongst your guests know it is impossible to cook those particular dishes anywhere near that quickly and with the tools described, receipts from the store can be seen sitting on the counter, the dishes the food is on has the trademarks of various pre-cooked food companies, there are no dirty dishes in your kitchen, the oven is cold, and some of the food is even still in wrappers. When pressed on this by many of the guests, some of your friends there point out that the food is hot, ignoring the fact that you have a microwave. Others point out how good it tastes, while everyone else says it tastes pretty lousy. Still others insist that either you or your evil arch-nemesis (they can’t agree on which) planted the receipt, the missing ingredients, and the trademarks on the dishes, as well as that your arch-nemesis has paid off the chefs pointing out the flaws in your story. And your son threatens to throw anyone who doubts your story into the oven and roast them alive, as well as anyone who complains about that being unjust and unfair. That would be a more fitting analogy.

  64. MattFunke

    TheBlackCat: And what he plainly said was that he created the universe, in its present state, at most 10,000 years ago.

    Where did He say that?

  65. TheBlackCat

    The Book of Genesis. The whole thing is quite clear and explicit. Completely and totally wrong, but still clear and explicit.

  66. “that dead would-be thief/father guy from the musical Carousel”

    Billy Bigelow.

    “knocking up his girlfriend”

    They have been married several months before she becomes pregnant, even in the original Hungarian version, which is a good deal more downbeat.

  67. MattFunke

    TheBlackCat: The Book of Genesis. The whole thing is quite clear and explicit. Completely and totally wrong, but still clear and explicit.

    Please forgive me for being a relentless pain in the neck, but where in Genesis does it say how the Universe appeared when God created it and when He did so? You appear to have seen something I missed, and I’d like to be corrected on it. Please be precise.

  68. So here’s another question:

    If God just made the universe look old to test us, then what’s he testing, our gullibility?

  69. Paul S

    It just blows my mind that if you put all of the stars in the KNOWN UNIVERSE into a space considerably smaller than our own galaxy, the closest star to the sun would still be as far away as Pluto. I knew that space is almost unimaginably vast, but I would have still thought that you couldn’t even fit all of the stars in the known universe into a space 12,000 light years across.

    Wow.

  70. Skepterist

    MattFunke, you are not being a pain at all. You are asking fair questions in a polite and civilized manor. Hopefully others will do the same.

    As to your question, “where in Genesis does it say how the Universe appeared when God created it and when He did so?”

    It says so in the first and second chapters, clearly, that in the beginning, God created the universe and the first humans (Adam and Eve) in six days. If you consider the lineage and lifespans of Adam and Eve’s children, grandchildren, great-grand children and so on, as it is written in the rest of the Old Testament, then the time it takes to trace all humans back to Adam and Eve is roughly 6,000-10,000 years old. This is what Literal Creationists insist upon – that the universe is not billions of years old, but merely thousands.

    So, the real question is, can one take Genesis, the biblical story of creation, literally? If one takes it as literal truth, then how can one explain the obvious contradictions to physical evidence? If one does not take Genesis literally, then how can one take any part of the Bible as literal truth? Can one pick and choose which passages are literal truth and which passages are metaphors? Who decides which ones are real, and which ones are not?

    This is where the confusion starts.

    B-)

  71. Paul S, you have made an incredible point! That’s worth looking into a bit more.

    The Milky Way’s disk is 100,000 light years across, and about 1000 light years thick, give or take. That means it has about 8 trillion cubic light years of volume. Yikes.

    A sphere 6000 light years in radius has a volume of just under a trillion cubic light years, so it’s less than the Galaxy, but on the same scale.

    If we filled our Galaxy with all the stars in the Universe, on average they’d be twice as far apart as in my example (the cube root of 8 is 2, and volume scales as the cube of the radius). So 6 billion instead of 3. Still. Wow. The Galaxy is friggin’ HUGE.

  72. Skepterist

    Kind of interesting:

    10^22 is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or ten thousand billion billion stars.

    A grain of medium sand is about .375mm in diameter. (wiki says the diameter of medium sand is 1/4mm – 1/2mm, so let’s take the average)

    Converted to volume, a .375mm diameter sphere takes up 0.0276 cubic mm. 4/3*pi*(0.375/2)^3

    If all the stars in the universe were the size of a grain of medium sand, then all the stars would fit into a volume of about 276,116,541,819,415,421,349.256 cubic mm,
    or 276,116,541,819.415 cubic meters,
    which is basically a sphere 8,079.13 meters in diameter.

    So, in other words, shrink down all the stars in the universe to the size of a grain of sand, and they would all fit into a ball about 5 miles wide.

    Ok, maybe not so interesting.

  73. MattFunke

    Skepterist: It says so in the first and second chapters, clearly, that in the beginning, God created the universe and the first humans (Adam and Eve) in six days. If you consider the lineage and lifespans of Adam and Eve’s children, grandchildren, great-grand children and so on, as it is written in the rest of the Old Testament, then the time it takes to trace all humans back to Adam and Eve is roughly 6,000-10,000 years old.

    Right, but as I’ve been given to understand it, there are all sorts of cultural nuances that muddy the issue — like the idea that the word used for “day” in the first few chapters of Genesis doesn’t always refer to 24 hours (and that even “morning and evening” is a way Semitic languages, including Hebrew, can idiomatically refer to long, indefinite stretches of time); that Hebrew lacks a past perfect tense, so telling chronological order is not as straightforward as it might first appear; that Hebrews consistently left gaps in their genealogies of people who were embarrassing or just plain dull, and that they even had no word for relations beyond “father” and “son”, so “X begat Y when he was Z years old” could also be rendered “X started the line that culiminated in Y when he was Z years old”; and so on.

    The 6000-year-old-Universe-created-in-six-calendrical-days approach certainly seems to come from a straightforward reading of the text — especially as it appears in our English translations — but nowhere is it (in TheBlackCat’s words) “explicit” or “plainly said”; if it were, there’d be no room for infighting amongst the Christians about exactly what Genesis 1 and 2 describe. If you look into it, there are all sorts of interpretations that all claim to be taking the text literally (the “Gap Theory”, the “Day-Age Theory”, the “Days of Proclamation Theory”, the “Literalist Theory”, the “Literary Framework Theory”, and so on).

    Frankly, IMHO, the issue gets seriously muddled when you start expecting this stuff to be as explicit, complete, and authoritative as what you’d find in a science textbook, no matter which side of the debate you find yourself on. It seems like a great many of the problems and arguments are made by finding “answers” to questions the text doesn’t address — e.g., “Where do fossils come from?” — to the point that people who read the texts never fail to see their preferred interpretations when they read it, whether or not it’s actually there; or, contrariwise, other people try to argue against all of Christendom by arguing against one interpretation of the Holy Writ (and that proves to be a moving target).

    That’s why I appreciate that BA seems to be rather careful about the fact that he’s attacking certain philosophies within a religion rather than the religion as a whole. Trying to prove an entire religion invalid by claiming that the only way that religion can possibly interpret things is X and then going on to show that X is invalid completely ignores how fluid adherents can be when it comes to interpreting things.

    Incidentally, the very fact that these interpretations can be so fluid should be a dead giveaway that what the adherents are talking about isn’t science (no matter what the YECists say).

    Skepterist: So, the real question is, can one take Genesis, the biblical story of creation, literally? If one takes it as literal truth, then how can one explain the obvious contradictions to physical evidence? If one does not take Genesis literally, then how can one take any part of the Bible as literal truth? Can one pick and choose which passages are literal truth and which passages are metaphors? Who decides which ones are real, and which ones are not?

    That does seem to be a tough little nut. But the YECists manage to insist that some passages in the remainder of Scripture are metaphorical and some are literal, or that some apply to modern thought and some don’t, by content alone. Why, for example, is the Pauline edict that “if a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off” (to pick a mild one — 1 Corinthians 11:6) almost unilaterally ignored?

  74. Skepterist:

    Okay, then, let’s consider a beach, with sand 1m deep, with 20m of beach before you reach the sea (those are guesstimations; I didn’t look them up). Then, if we made each star a grain of sand to put it on a beach, we would need a beach 13,805,827,090,970,771km long–almost 1,500 light-years!

    The beach would go from Earth to the Orion Nebula; or, if we kept it on this planet, would go around the Earth more than TWO TRILLION TIMES!

    Man, that’s a lot of stars!

  75. Russell

    The Bible is more than stories and records, it is God’s message to us to: First love him with all our heart, strength, and soul; Second to love our neighbor as our self.
    At best I can say I try to do this, but with many failures.

    I love astronomy and science.
    I try to reconcile creationism with science, but I agree much doesn’t seem to fit.
    I do not deny that there seems to be many contradictions between what we can see and prove, and what we can argue the Bible seems to be telling us.

    One thing I have learned about the Bible is that with constant reading and prayer it reveals its secrets.
    Many things that seemed impossible or contradictory have eventually explained themselves, and I’m sure the rest will when the time is right.

    God of wonders beyond our galaxy…

  76. OF COURSE, the universe is that small. How else could it rotate around the earth in only 24 hours? ;-)

  77. TheBlackCat

    The 6000-year-old-Universe-created-in-six-calendrical-days approach certainly seems to come from a straightforward reading of the text — especially as it appears in our English translations — but nowhere is it (in TheBlackCat’s words) “explicit” or “plainly said”; if it were, there’d be no room for infighting amongst the Christians about exactly what Genesis 1 and 2 describe. If you look into it, there are all sorts of interpretations that all claim to be taking the text literally (the “Gap Theory”, the “Day-Age Theory”, the “Days of Proclamation Theory”, the “Literalist Theory”, the “Literary Framework Theory”, and so on).

    None of those other interpretations started appearing until the early 1800′s when it became clear that the universe was not young. People didn’t look at Genesis and immediately start arguing over what it meant. They didn’t question it until evidence outside of scripture started to contradict it. If it was that unclear, if it was that ambiguous, if there were other explanations that were at least as good as the literal reading, then you would expect those disagreements to appear before scientific evidence on the issue came to light. That isn’t what happened. These aren’t disagreements based purely on scripture, they are attempts to rationalize the fact that the scripture is wrong.

    It seems like a great many of the problems and arguments are made by finding “answers” to questions the text doesn’t address — e.g., “Where do fossils come from?” — to the point that people who read the texts never fail to see their preferred interpretations when they read it, whether or not it’s actually there;

    Once again, the question of where fossils came from wasn’t a problem for scripture until the explosion of fossil finds in the 1800′s made it clear that they were not just dragons and shells washed up during the flood. It is only then they people started doubting scripture (with a few exceptions, da Vinci had issues regarding some fossils for hydrodynamics reasons, but that was once again based off scientific evidence not issues within the scripture).

    It is easy enough to look at scripture now, with everything we know, and say it is clear that such passages are just metaphorical or that they intended a non-literal interpretation. But that is only in light of modern scientific knowledge. When all people had was scripture they had no problem with literal interpretation of the same passages, they had know doubts about how, why, and when things happened (at least not doubts that would allow for anything approaching what really happened).

  78. MattFunke

    TheBlackCat: None of those other interpretations started appearing until the early 1800’s when it became clear that the universe was not young.

    Not true. Granted, the amount of time creation took or the age of things is kind of peripheral to the doctrines of Judaism or Christianity, so it’s difficult to find people making any claims on the issue before science had something to say on the issue. Nevertheless, one can find ancient Jewish scholars (Philo and Josephus) and Christian “church fathers” from the first few centuries CE (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus (through writings of Ambrose), Clement, Origen, Lactantius, Victorinus, Methodius, Augustine, Eusebius, Basil, and Ambrose) who argued that creation days were likely much longer than 24 hours and, in some cases, that the Earth was probably considerably older than 6000 years. (No one guessed a 4.5 billion year old Earth, of course, but that’s not really the point here, is it? I’m trying to point out that the passages are not as specific as even YECists would like them to be.)

    You can read these documents for yourself by going either here or here.

    I’d certainly agree that young-Earth creationism in its present form really got underway once geology and biology really started showing some teeth in the 1800s. But to claim that passages that even authorities in these various faiths have admitted for centuries are hopelessly vague are “plain” or “explicit” seems a little facile.

  79. St. Jerome called the creation narrative (actually, there are two) in Genesis a “folk tale”.

    Remember that the whole idea of the Bible as an inerrant and complete source of absolute truth really came in only with the Reformation, when Calvin needed a stick to beat the Pope with. Previously, Christians had taken the Bible very seriously, but not quite so seriously as that.

  80. Philip

    Aside from the rather smarlmy tone of the discussion (putting up a ‘straw man’ and mocking it), the original issue raises the serious question of how big is the universe really. Using the simple model above of two times the age one would expect a value of about 27-30 billion light years. However most cosmologists I have heard resist using this simple calculation and some speculate the Universe is signifcantly larger (I recall a value of about 60 billion light years being suggested a couple of years back). Evidently the situation is a bit more complex – one aspect is the role of inflation in the early universe, what other factors cause this uncerainty?

  81. MattFunke

    Philip: Evidently the situation is a bit more complex – one aspect is the role of inflation in the early universe, what other factors cause this uncerainty?

    The role of inflation in the current Universe is a simple one. The Universe has inflated in the amount of time it took the light from an object billions of light years away to get here.

  82. MattFunke

    (Sorry. I should note that the expansion of the current Universe doesn’t create uncertainty; it just allows for a larger Universe than simply calculating the age of the Universe might suggest at first glance.)

  83. Darth Curt

    I’m a little disappointed by all you scientists. I’m a fairly open minded God fearing individual, so I believe the bible to be the word of God. But where in the Bible does it say a day is 24 hours, while God is creating the earth? A 24 hour ‘earth’ day didn’t exist yet. Why can’t a day in the first few chapters of Genesis be 10 Trillion earth years long? Then we could have a 60 Trillion year old Universe. Or here’s a thought… what if “In the beginning there was nothing” refered to just our Solar System, and not the Universe as a whole? Then the 6 days could add up to… I was going to say 4.5 Billion years, but that’s just the earth… i don’t remember how old the Sun is… according to science.

    I find it a little close minded that there are only 10^22 stars in the Universe… have they been counted? Surely the Universe is infinitely big (how can space have an end?), with say an infinite number of Galaxies, therefore there must be an infinite amount of Stars… or is that 10^22 stars in our Galaxy?

    Anyway getting back to 4004 BC. That’s when Adam and Eve got the boot from the garden. It never says they weren’t in there for 10,000 years… it doesn’t say they were in there for a 24 hours. Personally, and many mainstream Christians will probably call me a blasphemer for this, but I believe that God DOES follow science, and is held by all the rules of physics, chemistry, and biology. I just wonder if we puny humans, using only a fraction of our mind’s potential, have figured out the rules ourselves. Dinosaurs? Sure, why not… fossil fuels had to come from somewhere. Died with the flood? That’s just silly… it takes Millions of years to create fossil fuels. You scientists that enjoy mocking religion need to open your mind a little bit… as I have opened mine to science.

    To sum up? God and Science can (and I believe do) exist in the same universe. Thanks for letting me rant.

  84. TheBlackCat

    It would be nice if you could provide non-commercial sources, since these are all old works and non-commercial sources are available. Expecting me to buy software that costs hundreds of dollars is a bit much.

    I took it upon myself to check the works of some of these authors myself.

    Josephus, for instance, describes the 6-day creation story as being literally true, and taking normal days. He also presents the geneologies from Adam as being literally true. It is unclear whether the exact method by which man was created he considers to be literally true or not, but claiming that he is opposed to a literal reading of the sequence and timing in genesis is not supported by this source or any of the others I have looked at (although if you can present primary sources contradicting this please do so). You can see the section in question below, free and without need for registration:

    http://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-1.htm

    Justin Martyr similarly presents the creation as the creation of time, and the days of creation being days as we know them:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/ecf/001/0010643.htm

    I can’t check every piece of text by every person you mentioned, but these two at least do not seem to back up your assertion.

  85. MattFunke

    Darth Curt: But where in the Bible does it say a day is 24 hours, while God is creating the earth? A 24 hour ‘earth’ day didn’t exist yet. Why can’t a day in the first few chapters of Genesis be 10 Trillion earth years long?

    An argument like this was one of the first ancient, non-scientific, Scripture-based objections to 24-hour creation days that I’ve read. There were also objections based on the events of the third day (plants take much longer to grow and reproduce than 24 hours), the sixth day (which would have been, to put it mildly, quite eventful for Adam if it happened in only 24 hours), the notion that time for an infinite God would almost surely be radically different than the way man is used to measuring time, and others.

    They didn’t have the tools to search for the evidence we now have at our fingertips, but even so, disagreement on the meaning of Genesis goes way back.

    Darth Curt: Or here’s a thought… what if “In the beginning there was nothing” refered to just our Solar System, and not the Universe as a whole?

    Actually, it says that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters…”

    I have no idea what that (“without form and void”, but nevertheless mentioned as existing) means.

    Darth Curt: Then the 6 days could add up to… I was going to say 4.5 Billion years, but that’s just the earth… i don’t remember how old the Sun is… according to science.

    About the same. According to the nebular hypothesis, they formed concurrently.

    Darth Curt: I find it a little close minded that there are only 10^22 stars in the Universe… have they been counted?

    One by one? No, of course not. But we can still come up with a good estimate.

    Darth Curt: Surely the Universe is infinitely big (how can space have an end?), with say an infinite number of Galaxies, therefore there must be an infinite amount of Stars… or is that 10^22 stars in our Galaxy?

    It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 10^11 stars in our galaxy. Suggestions about the “infinity” of the Universe are based on its perceived curvature, which (AFAIK) we’re still working out, so we’re not sure whether or not it’s infinite.

    Whatever lies beyond it isn’t spacetime. That’s as specific as I can get, unfortunately. All I can say is that if you’re beyond the Universe, you’re “in” something Other.

  86. MattFunke

    TheBlackCat: It would be nice if you could provide non-commercial sources

    If you can get a copy of Ross’ Creation and Time at your local library, you wouldn’t have to pay for it. His quotes of these people are extensive.

    If you can’t, here are a few I was able to scare up real quick:

    Origen, in Against Celus 6:60, penned 248 CE, emphasis mine: “… we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world…”

    Justin Martyr, addressing creation days in Dialog with Typho the Jew, chapter 81, penned 155 CE, emphasis mine: “For as Adam was told that in the [d]ay [h]e ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, “The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,” is connected with this subject.

    St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatises 11:11, penned 250 CE: “As the first seven days in the divine arrangement containing seven thousand of years…”

    Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6:16, penned 208 CE, emphasis mine: “That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated, and not suppose that God made it in time, prophecy adds: “This is the book of the generation: also of the things in them, when they were created in the day that God made heaven and earth.” For the expression “when they were created” intimates an indefinite and dateless production.” From the same work, same section: “And how could creation take place in time, seeing time was born along with things which exist?”

    St. Augustine, City of God 11:6, penned 419 CE, emphasis mine: “But simultaneously with time the world was made, if in the world’s creation change and motion were created, as seems evident from the order of the first six or seven days. For in these days the morning and evening are counted, until, on the sixth day, all things which God then made were finished, and on the seventh the rest of God was mysteriously and sublimely signalized. What kind of days these were it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say!

    This website has much to read for free. There are many more quotes from the individuals I have mentioned.

    TheBlackCat: Josephus, for instance, describes the 6-day creation story as being literally true, and taking normal days.

    I see in the reference where he refers to the days of creation, but nowhere where he refers to their length. Other works written by Josephus contradict the idea that he thought they were like our days, 24 hours in length.

    TheBlackCat: Justin Martyr similarly presents the creation as the creation of time, and the days of creation being days as we know them:

    I see in that text that he considers time itself to have been created at the same moment the heavens were created, and that this was revealed to Moses through the use of the word “day”, but the idea that he thought that this “day” is the same as our 24-hour day is debatable… especially since other works of his, one of which I quoted above seem to indicate that he believed that it was not.

  87. According to the scholarship I read a long time ago, the Hebrew word is Yom, which in the sentances in Genesis 1 has the expression, “Evening and Morning” and it is these expressions goes the scholarship that ties Yom to the 24 hour period.

    We also have the creation week mentioned in Exodus when the Sabbath command is given, as a pattern for the Jewish working week + rest day. So the argument is that God made the universe in 6 literal 24 hour days plus a day of rest, so he could set an example of a proper working week.

    So the argument goes…

    I was once told that no matter how much they complain, atheists can not get around the fact we have a seven day week.

    FWIW

  88. Darth Robo

    Sorry, but I can’t resist saying something to Darth Curt:

    “You scientists that enjoy mocking religion”

    Repeat after me: NOTHING in science disproves God. God can do ANYTHING. Therefore is not science. Science and religion are two separate subjects. What people are mocking here is YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISM, not religion in general. There’s a difference.

    There’s nothing wrong with mocking YEC because it’s just plain ludicrious. So as one Sith lord to another, please stop talking silly. It makes us look bad.

  89. Darth Curt

    Ok… valid points all, and I may have been a bit hasty, and forgotten some stuff from Genesis… fair enough. I don’t believe in YEC, but it felt like religion as a whole was getting kicked around. My appologies. It should be noted that Moses wrote Genesis, and then it got translated I don’t know how many times, (think about how different English is today then it was even 200 years ago, nevermind how much Hebrew has changed over the past 3 to 4 thousand years) and I’m sure many little tidbits that probably explain everything a lot better got lost in translation. Sorry for being “silly”.

  90. TheBlackCat

    Very well, it does seem some very early church fathers questioned the meaning of the word “day”, and one questioned the 6-day story. However, all the examples you cited still seem to support that there has been only 6000 years since creation (most explicitly), based on the “begats” and starting with Adam, no matter how long the creation itself took. And they either support the events of the story, or in Augustine’s case everything happened simultaneously (which is worse yet). Besides Augustine none entertained the idea that the story was completely and totally wrong, and Augustine was even more wrong than Genesis. I should also point out that a number of the people you cite appear to be Arianists, hardly a mainstream Christian group as we know them today.

  91. MattFunke

    TheBlackCat: However, all the examples you cited still seem to support that there has been only 6000 years since creation (most explicitly), based on the “begats” and starting with Adam, no matter how long the creation itself took.

    I was in a rush; even the limited quotes I included to address a single point took up a fair amount of space and time. Regardless, that’s kind of beside the point. Your assertion was that the idea of a six-calendrical-day creation that took place 6000 years ago was essentially beyond question until science started to show that this model was wrong as evidence that this interpretation of the text is plain. All I needed to show was that that assertion is false.

    TheBlackCat: And they either support the events of the story, or in Augustine’s case everything happened simultaneously (which is worse yet). Besides Augustine none entertained the idea that the story was completely and totally wrong, and Augustine was even more wrong than Genesis.

    That doesn’t matter. They called into question the straightforward interpretation of the Genesis account, even lacking the scientific evidence we now possess.

    I’m not to prove that these people were right, nor that any of the various creation interpretations currently fashionable are right. I’m trying to address the logical fallacy of making sweeping statements about a philosophy based on incomplete information about that philosophy — the same fallacy I would address if I came across a YECist who claimed that acceptance of evolution implies acceptance of social Darwinism.

    If you want to reject Christianity, I can’t possibly have an issue with that. I can have an issue with incorrect information being put forth as evidence one should use to reject it, however.

    TheBlackCat: I should also point out that a number of the people you cite appear to be Arianists, hardly a mainstream Christian group as we know them today.

    Why? Even if accurate, what does that completely irrelevant tidbit have to do with the issue at hand? What does “these people wouldn’t be considered mainstream today” have to do with the assertion that “no one really disagreed with the interpretation of Genesis we associate with YECism until scientific evidence made them uncomfortable”?

    More to the point, what is mentioning this information meant to accomplish?

  92. MattFunke

    Sticks: According to the scholarship I read a long time ago, the Hebrew word is Yom, which in the sentances in Genesis 1 has the expression, “Evening and Morning” and it is these expressions goes the scholarship that ties Yom to the 24 hour period.

    … except in Daniel 8:26, where a vision from Daniel’s time that goes from his period to the end of the world (a period of 3000 years at least, even if the Big End should come today) is refered to as a vision “of the evening and morning” (singular in Hebrew — commonly plural when it crosses over into English).

    There’s also Psalm 90, written by (gasp) Moses, which in verse 6 says of grass, “In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades and withers away.” I know of no grass that goes through its entire life cycle in 24 hours.

    Besides this, “evening and morning” is an idiom in all Semitic languages that refers to a long, but indefinite, stretch of time.

    What you mention is a possible interpretation, but not the only one.

    Sticks: We also have the creation week mentioned in Exodus when the Sabbath command is given, as a pattern for the Jewish working week + rest day. So the argument is that God made the universe in 6 literal 24 hour days plus a day of rest, so he could set an example of a proper working week.

    This would hold water if the Sabbath only ever referred to one day in seven in the Old Testament. It doesn’t. One quick example: there were Sabbath years in Leviticus 25:1-13; Exodus 21:2-6, 23:10-11; and Deuteronomy 15:1-6.

    The pattern seems to me to be the one-period-in-seven rule. -=shrug=-

    Counterargument: according to Hebrews 4, God’s seventh day of rest is still going, and Christians are ordered to enter it. It would be impossible to obey this command in any literal sense without Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

    Sticks: I was once told that no matter how much they complain, atheists can not get around the fact we have a seven day week.

    Though it’s common in the modern world, not everyone ever has, you know. Weeks from three to eight days long appear in many pre-modern civilizations.

  93. MattFunke

    It would be impossible to obey this command in any literal sense without Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

    … if one insists that the days in Genesis 1 must refer to 24-hour days, of course.

  94. MattFunke you seem to have an impressive knowledge of scripture, are you a member of any church by any chance or have you attended any seminaries?

  95. TheBlackCat

    Your assertion was that the idea of a six-calendrical-day creation that took place 6000 years ago was essentially beyond question until science started to show that this model was wrong as evidence that this interpretation of the text is plain. All I needed to show was that that assertion is false.

    And you have not done so. You have shown that a small number of what appear to be members of a small minority group within the very earliest Christian community objected to one aspect of the story. That hardly disproves that it was “essentially beyond question”. A lot of what most Christians throughout most of the last 2000 years would consider to be extremely strange ideas could be found in the early church. However, those were all stamped out in the third century and say absolutely nothing about the overall state of biblical scholarship. That would be like saying there is substantial disagreement amongst biologist about whether evolution is true based solely on Michael Behe.

    Now if you can show that there was substantial criticism of the literal reading of Genesis in the mainstream Christian church after the 400′s, when the “mainstream Christian Church” was first established, independent of any scientific or historical evidence opposing it, then that is something. But a handful of people that, if found in the later church would have been considered heretics and probably killed, do not signify a significant disagreement amongst mainstream biblical scholars. You can find small minority groups within any larger group that have divergent ideas but that does not mean those ideas are significant within that community.

  96. MattFunke

    TheBlackCat: You have shown that a small number of what appear to be members of a small minority group within the very earliest Christian community objected to one aspect of the story.

    Moving the goalposts much?

    Does the fact that we don’t have that many voices from Christianity at all from this era, but that the voices we do have include these people, mean anything to you about their perceived significance by adherents? For example:

    TheBlackCat: That would be like saying there is substantial disagreement amongst biologist about whether evolution is true based solely on Michael Behe.

    If Michael Behe’s words were still actively respected, trusted, and studied by biologists 1900 years hence (and throughout the entire intervening time), there’d have been something to Michael Behe’s stance, wouldn’t there?

    Besides, your criterion on whether or not Genesis was interpreted any way other than the way we associate with YECism today was not whether or not their breed of Christianity would be considered mainstream during which epochs. Your claim was that differing interpretations of Genesis started cropping up in the 1800s in response to scientific finding, and that there was no other reason people would interpret the text differently.

    The fact is that there was. Some people considered great teachers by adherents (they don’t call them “church fathers” even today for nothing) decided that Scripture alone was a decent basis for rejecting 24-hour creation days.

    Why does an idea have to be held by the mainstream to be considered valid, anyway? Isn’t that appealing to the same flawed argument used by Christians who assert that Christianity must be true by dint of the number of people who believe in it?

    We’re not discussing Christianity itself here. We’re not discussing Judaism itself here. We’re discussing who interpreted Genesis, how they did so, and on what basis.

    Consider some examples from Judaism, who were interpreting Genesis before Christianity even got underway. (Shouldn’t their interpretations be considered, too, in analyzing how singular the interpretation of the Genesis account was before the advent of more modern scientific discoveries?)

    The Talmud, for example, holds that there were 974 generations before God created Adam (Talmud Chagigga 13b-14a). Some midrashim assert that the first “week” of creation lasted for extremely long periods of time. Maimonides, a medieval rabbi (and one of the great ones, still considered a key player in defining Jewish thought and study), held that it was not required to read Genesis literally, even arguing that if science and interpretation of the Torah conflicted, the scientific point should be accepted and interpretation of the Torah adjusted accordingly (in the 12th century!). Rabbi Isaac of Akko, a prominent rabbi of the 13th century, taught that the Universe is about 15 billion years old. An 11th-century commentary on the Torah was written by Rabbi Bahya ben Asher, and it concludes that there were many time systems in the Universe long before man started recording history.

    And zipping ahead to the modern era, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, is critical of “intelligent design”; he called it “their attempt to confirm what they already believe” on NPR.

    Again, I’m not trying to assert that any of these religious teachers were right, or that any modern religious teacher is right. The point is that respected teachers — even ones still respected now — disagreed with the straightforward reading of Genesis, and they didn’t need to be made uncomfortable by 19th-century scientific discoveries to do so.

  97. Paul S

    TheBlackCat – Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, and Origen were generally considered three fairly prestigious early Christian theologians – they were hardly marginal figures.

    Besides, you are indeed “shifting the goal posts” as it is shown that your earlier statements are simply wrong. You started by saying that Christians never doubted a literal reading of Genesis until modern times, and now that it is clear that some of the most distinguished early Christian writers did doubt a literal reading of Genesis, you’re arguing that they were insignificant and marginal figures (totally wrong) and that in any case they were still wrong scientifically (true, but irrelevant).

    I think that just as religious people should refrain from condemning aspects of science that they do not understand, skeptics should refrain from condemning aspects of religion that they likewise do not understand.

  98. TheBlackCat

    You are correct, I am moving the goalposts to an extent. I originally said that there was no disagreement, which was a stupid thing to say. I should have know that there would be a few divergent views on the subject, and in fact was remembering my statements incorrectly thinking I had made that clear. Upon checking again you are correct, my statements were wrong.

    So, my previous statement was wrong. New issue: was the non-literal reading of Genesis anything other than a minority view in the pre-Nicaean Christian Church, and/or a very small minority in later times? This issue has not been resolved.

    It is possible to be highly regarded as an early Christian who helped spread and defend the faith without having any of your theology accepted. It is true that they were prestigious members of the church, and highly regarded because of that, that does not automatically mean their theology was influential. I’m not arguing that as members of the early church they were marginal, I am arguing that many of their opinions on theology were marginal. Those are entirely different issues.

    And much of their theology was highly divergent compared to the “official” version of Christianity as established by the Ecumenical Councils in later centuries. If they had lived in later times, and expressed the opinions that they did, they would very likely had been killed. But because they lived in earlier times, and were important figures for spreading the faith, they are respected.

    Considering how divergent many of their views were, they are proof that the literal reading was not totally universal, but it is not proof that they were anything other than a small minority view in the very early church. Those views may have been held by important members at the time, but that does not make the views themselves important (or any other views held by those individuals). Lots of individual who were important for various reasons have held views on other issues that were very divergent from the group they belong to.

  99. MattFunke

    TheBlackCat, I feel I owe you an apology. I have a deep interest in ancient history (as noted earlier in these comments), so debates like this are interesting to me, since ancient literature gives us insight into how ancient people thought. However, to some extent, I feel as if I’ve been behaving like a fanboy arguing about which fanfic should be considered valid for his favorite series. The fact is that there are bigger fish to fry here. There are people who are willing to ignore good science on the basis of their beliefs, and more dangerously and more terrifying, are willing to try to alter the policies and laws of a powerful technological nation by calling these beliefs “scientific”.

    I must also confess that I’ve also come up empty on a few of my searches. It is true that the “incomplete genealogies” argument is hard to find among “chuch fathers”, perhaps because they relied heavily on the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament) and Latin translations, neither of which communicate all the meaning of the original Hebrew. I also could have sworn I had read a medieval Jewish rabbi who argued strongly for incomplete (or, as they call them in the trade, “telescoped”) genealogies in Genesis, on the grounds that (a) Hebrew genealogies were known to do that to make genealogies more pleasant for hundreds of years anyway; (b) the Scriptural genealogies were just “too pretty” — the geneerations are arranged in groups of ten in Genesis 5 and 11, the first two groups end with individuals (Noah and Terah) that had three sons each, and so on; and (c) comparing the various genealogies to each other yielded interesting results. But I can’t seem to find this rabbi in searching my library or the web. I should come clean on that.

    I think it important to try to address the issues at hand here — ones that lead to dangerous ignorance in our day. If you want to continue discussing this, I’m more than willing to do so — I find it interesting, as I’ve said — but I also perceive that it may have caused hard feelings, which I certainly don’t want to do.

    (And to answer one of your questions: I certainly can’t answer for all of the figures I’ve mentioned, but Maimonides is still considered a key theologian for much of Judaism, and Augustine is still considered a key theologian for much of Christendom. It’s also worth noting that the views that divorced some people from what would later be mainstream Christianity didn’t have anything to do with their views on Genesis; in the case of Arianists, for example, it was how Christ fit into the Godhead.)

  100. Irishman

    The Englishman said:
    > Surely god made the universe appear old as a test of faith. He says “whoever believe in me will not perish but have eternal life” and in saying makes belief a key requisite for entry to heaven. Now obviously if the devil had not ensured that man had eaten at the tree of knowledge he would not have noticed that the universe was old and would have got in anyway but seeing as man did exercise free will god would have needed to test faith.

    > Testing faith would ensure that only the worthy get in.

    Define “worthy”. By that reasoning the the only qualifier is “believes in the existence of God”.

    Think of it this way. If christians are correct, God made me, he made me in his image, he gave me a brain and intelligence and reasoning. Why would he actively work to mislead me, that if I use the tools he gave me I get the wrong answer? That seems contradictory to the image we are given of a loving God. Why is faith the measure of worthiness, and not commitment, dedication, desire to serve, willingness, compassion, or any other characteristic of behavior? What does God have against evidence, and why did he make me want evidence so much?

    MattFunke said:
    > But the YECists manage to insist that some passages in the remainder of Scripture are metaphorical and some are literal, or that some apply to modern thought and some don’t, by content alone. Why, for example, is the Pauline edict that “if a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off” (to pick a mild one — 1 Corinthians 11:6) almost unilaterally ignored?

    You’re the one explaining the YECs. ;-) It does seem inconsistent for the YECs to argue for literalism and then concede some parts are metaphor. It seems we both agree that some parts are metaphor and some are not modern and evaluation is necessary to pick the good from the bad. The disagreement is over which parts are which. ;-)

    Sticks said:
    > I was once told that no matter how much they complain, atheists can not get around the fact we have a seven day week.

    Because Western Civilization was united by the Roman Empire, and the Emperor’s adopted Christianity and implemented Christian elements, including the seven day week. Cultural heritage has kept that religious infrastructure embedded ever since. Hardly proves the existence of God or the reality of the events of Genesis.

  101. MattFunke

    Irishman: It seems we both agree that some parts are metaphor and some are not modern and evaluation is necessary to pick the good from the bad. The disagreement is over which parts are which.

    That was exactly my intended point. :)

  102. MattFunke

    Irishman: Define “worthy”. By that reasoning the the only qualifier is “believes in the existence of God”.

    … And more to the point, it’s not belief in His existence alone that God requires, apparently. Consider the folks that James wrote to, who had one up on this minimal belief (they not only believed that God exists, but that He is One):

    “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”

    The implication — that demons are not made worthy by their simple belief — seems clear enough, especially since this is to be found in a passage about how faith without works is useless.

  103. TheBlackCat

    MattFunke,

    Thank you. I also acted that way, I believe, saying things that were false and certainly not backed by evidence or even common sense. My apologies. Don’t worry about offending me, that is an extremely difficult thing to do. I hope I haven’t either.

    The implication — that demons are not made worthy by their simple belief — seems clear enough, especially since this is to be found in a passage about how faith without works is useless.

    The Bible is extremely inconsistent on this point. There are many passages that explicitly state that faith is the only thing required for salvation, while there are many others that explicitly state the exact opposite.

    The issue of the trinity, however, is not explicitly discussed in the Bible, and it wasn’t until the Nicean council that it was officially established to be the trinity.

  104. Jef

    The bible novel was written in a time when science and math (as we now know it) was non-existent. It help explain the world in the best way of the time; storytelling and word of mouth. Reason and logic as explanation for the concepts of the bible was not possible, since it was the first of its kind. Who knows what the situation was with its writers? Maybe they were sleep deprived or suffering dehydration halucinations. Maybe just not knowing. We’ll never know for sure.

    How a portion of modern western world can honestly (and faithfully) follow even the literal re-interpretation of such a text (new testament) is beyond comprehension in todays world. Lack of education is at the heart of the issue, which is at the heart of the debate for teaching creationism in the science ciriculum. Maybe a complete modern reinterpretation is due, a scientific based version of the lessons portrayed in every section of the bible. A new-NEW-testament, written by a science-minded christian who is fed up with it all. Although I highly doubt any such person brought up with such beliefs exists, since it would undermine the very teachings of his/her lifetime indoctrination.

    After reading some of the comments and their respective websites (like skeptics annotated bible) I admire your attempt to take on such topics and thank you Phil Plait for your somewhat futile efforts. Please
    Keep up the good work.

  105. This was a most engaging read. I enjoyed it so much.

  106. Nowhere does the Bible say the Universe is just around 6000 years old. Those saying so are mistaken and do not know the scriptures. See my work, Newton’s third law, laws. and the Creation account recorded in Genesis in my website.

  107. The Bible is much deeper than what we think and very scientific. See my blog, http://www.bloguido.com/tayo123 for a solution of the length of the days in Genessis. I believe, there, I put an end to the Creation-Evolution debate.
    The Bible is supported or should I say what the Bible describes in Genesis is confirmed by science.

  108. Robert Carnegie

    I think I recall it’s not quite 6010 years, the anniversary is late October. No, I’m not kidding… but I’m not a believer either.

    One basic time limit in the story is that Adam is stated in Genesis 5 to have died aged 930 years, which, besides archaeological evidence, rules out a long (well, archaeologically long) human existence in Eden.

    The story isn’t true, and it is muddled and stupid thinking to wish that it is in some way true when you know that it isn’t.

  109. Anon

    MattFunke: When Adam fell, the world fell. Man didn’t have to farm to create food. Food was provided by God in the garden. When the earth was formed, when man was created, trees were fully formed as well. Man would have starved if all there was in the world was a bunch of saplings. Your logic just diesn’t make sense.

    @Robert: If the story wasn’t true, then I’m sure it would have been discredited by now, but unfortunately, it hasn’t. Shame.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »