On the evening of Wednesday, March 31, 2010, the Frank Pastore Show hosted a debate between Old-Earth Creationist (OEC) Hugh Ross, of “Reasons To Believe“ (RTB) and Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) Jason Lisle of “Answers in Genesis“. Radio station, KKLA in Los Angeles, California, broadcast the debate.
Since both participants had a background in astrophysics, I was interested and had the time to listen to the streaming feed. The show is currently available as a podcast (page, mp3). Some show notes are available as well on Frank Pastore's Run Sheets.
Dr. Hugh Ross: I have a few of Dr. Ross' books, but have so far have only read “A Matter of Days“. I picked up two others when I attended the RTB conference “What Darwin Didn't Know“ in October of 2008.
Dr. Jason Lisle: Dr. Lisle is rather new on the YEC scene (he apparently obtained his Ph.D. in 2004 in solar physics). I've not seen any significant contributions to YEC astronomy & cosmology beyond the occasional popular-level articles on the AiG site so I've had no strong incentive to buy any of his books.
The debate was split into four sections by the host, each section opening with specific themes to address. Here's some of my notes from the debate. I've highlighted my comments.
Title: Thousands or Billions?
1) Where do you start?
- Holds to a literal 6-day interpretation of Genesis
- The individual's World View is the basis on which evidence is interpreted
- The Bible has only one origin story. One can't refer to passages in Job, Psalm 104, etc. as creation accounts
- The Hebrew word 'Yom' has multiple interpretations, and the Genesis interpretation is consistent with the notion of a long period of time, not a 24-hour day (I've found some more about this interpretation of 'Yom' at Yom with a Number.)
- The long time interpretation is consistent with multiple creation accounts. Job 38, 39, Proverbs, others. This allows one to read bible without contradiction.
- Newton advocated an old Earth in interpreting Genesis (I'll have to track down a reference for this.)
- YEC & OEC agree there is an actual beginning to the Universe, but the Bible says the Universe is 'constant' (i.e. the laws of the Universe). Otherwise there would be no supernova remnants.
- Laws of physics don't change implies that the Universe must be billions of years old.
- Insists the Universe is the product of supernatural creation <10,000 years ago.
- General Revelation reveals there is a God.
- The distances between galaxies are real, but this does not mean they are necessarily old. (Lisle presented no real justification for this.)
3) What would Adam look like?
Would Adam be a 30-something adult or something else?
Would there be tree rings? Why not created with appearance of age?
- Lisle accuses Ross of the fallacy of proving statement that we start with (but don't YECs make the same fallacy in asserting literal truth in the Bible as justified by their interpretation of nature?).
- Stars were created on Day 4.
- Challenges Ross' interpretation of Psalm 19.
- Psalm 19. Interpret the record of nature as book and trustworthy. God would not be deceptive on appearance of age.
- Astronomers can see time in the past when stars did not exist. We can witness cosmic creation event (Cosmic Microwave Background radiation).
- Christian astronomers came out in favor of an old universe, making a statement on a debate between Ross & Danny Faulkner.
- At the Fall, death became an issue for humans, not all life (death existed for animals before the Fall). Referenced by Paul? Romans 5:12?
- The Flood was world-wide but not global. Earth can never be moved.
- Dinosaurs created on Day 5 but they became extinct before humans were on the scene.
- Received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. He was a YEC then, but not that open about it. Claims astronomy does not require billions of years.
- Biblical inerrancy is at stake.
- Dinosaurs were created on the 6th day. Dinosaurs survived up until the flood. The Flood was global.
I've been following some of the RTB podcasts for a while now. Ross' “Testable Creation Theory” seems to be nothing of the sort, relying heavily on very subjective interpretations of data. As part of Dr. Ross' debate with Michael Shermer, cosmologist Sean Carroll provided a list of potentially useful predictions for such a "Testable Creation Theory", which RTB's theory does not satisfy. You can read more about this debate at “Reasons to Believe”...or not.
Dr. Lisle seems to quietly fall back on the notion that Astronomy is an 'unprovable' science. He never describes the cosmos in an internally consistent picture, saying he believes the distances, but never explaining how light can make the trip in just thousands of years. I am not the only one who has noticed this, as a similar avoidance is described in Chris Sharp's writeup "Jason Lisle's Visit to Tuscon". Perhaps I should arrange a visit to the Creation Museum to meet Dr. Lisle for myself. Much of astronomy depends on the proper synchronization of distances and times. While these types of tests have large uncertainties, many of them are of sufficiently accuracy that we can infer atomic and nuclear properties that can be measured in the earth-based laboratories.
Dr. Lisle never addresses the testability of his claims with objective experimental tests, insisting that the difference only depends on one's World View. But the physical laws which make the Universe old are the same physical laws which make our Earth technology. Your cell phone or laptop does not operate differently based on your World View. The only 'technology' that operates dependent on your World View would be called sorcery. I've documented some of the cosmology/technology connections: Technology from Cosmology, or “Can Creation Science Do That?” and
The Cosmos in Your Pocket: How Cosmological Science Became Earth Technology. I
These types of debates between Christians reinforces my suspicion that creationism is a doctrinal ploy. Such heavy emphasis on minor details of belief and ritual was a practice for which the pharisees were regularly condemned by Jesus. Creationism seems to be an 'easy' issue designed to distract Believers from living the hard work of Christ's real commandments, such as "Love Thy Neighbor" and The Golden Rule.
"The Bible tells how to go to Heaven, not how the Heavens go." -- Caesar Baronius (Wikipedia)
[Note: In the earlier version of this post, I referenced an AAS presentation which I attended. However the presenter has asked that I keep their work out of this particular topic. I will limit my discussions of this presentation to what is available in the literature.
In the earlier version of this post, I recounted the story of a meeting where I described Dr. Lisle as 'apparently a no-show'. It has been clarified this was due to an overbooking error and the appropriate parties were notified. 'No-show' would be a technically incorrect term in this case. My apologies to Dr. Lisle for the misstatement.]