Saturday, April 3, 2010

OEC Hugh Ross debates YEC Jason Lisle

[ Revised April 5, 2010 - details at bottom of page ]

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.

The Participants:
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?
Jason Lisle
  • 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
Hugh Ross
  • 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.)
2) What do you see when you look through a telescope, do you see thousands or billions?
Hugh Ross
  • 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.
Jason Lisle
  • 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.)
The host raises questions about the speed of light vs. the 'appearance of age'.  Does 'appearance of age' make God deceiver?

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?

Jason Lisle
  • 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.
Hugh Ross
  • 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).
4) Dinosaurs & the Flood.  Why is age of Earth even an issue?
Hugh Ross
  • 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.
Jason Lisle
  • 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.
My Closing Thoughts
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.]


DM said...






you little liars do nothing but antagonize…

and you try to eliminate all the dreams and hopes of humanity…

but you LOST…


Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism…



atheists deny their own life element…



W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

I debated whether I should let this comment through. The links send a somewhat confused message.

I guess they didn't read the final paragraph of my original post. Their tone helps illustrate my point about the real agenda of creationism - a mechanism for dividing Christians.

rspeir said...

(Ignore him. Maybe he'll go away.) Yes, I listened to the debate as well. Those are two men I esteem mainly because of their denunciation of evolution. I admire the fact that Ross has not let long ages detract from his belief of man created in God's image, as have so many. Ok, now this was interesting: because of the debate, Ross has rather opened my eyes up to something that I admit I was heretofore blind to; namely, the heavens are in and of themselves a book to be read, so to speak! Fascinating thought. (Now I know what you are thinking: "rspeir, when are you going to read that book and listen," but I still think there might be a way to get a decent YEC model in edgewise.) Tom, I recently heard from one of the YEC PhD's and would like your opinion. He said, "I would not be surprised if in the next 25 years the big bang model is replaced." Can you give us a post about the ongoing life or potential death of the bb theory? Do you think it will make it another 25? How is the Planck satellite going...will it confirm what we hope it to or will it end up possibly helping overturn the Standard Model? (I know it's weird but you already know I am pro-big bang and a YECer at the same time.) Thanks for your comments on the debate.

Sean McKay said...

For (apparently) the John Newton being an old-earther letter, this link should have what Ross is referring to:

Anonymous said...

The reason that creationism is important is because if we have evolution before the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then we have God saying that death is "very good" which we know that it isn't as the Bible later refers to death as "the enemy" (Romans was it?)
A scientific problem with theistic evolution/day-age theory is that the way the Bible lays out creation there are plants before the bugs to pollinate them (bugs are created day six, plants are created day three) We know that there was plant death during this time as Adam, Eve, and every animal on earth would eat them, so during this time, plants would have been dying. Now if there were only three days between the creation of plants and the creation of pollinating insects, no problem. Millions of years, and suddenly you have very few species of plants, and then the bugs that would have survived by pollinating these plants (bees, butterflies, etc.) would have died off.
There are numerous other reasons why OEC views don't hold water, from both theological and scientific views, but these are some of the easiest. I hope that this shows you that YEC isn't just a device used to divide Christians, but think about this the Bible clearly states that God created the heavens and the Earth, and all that was in them in six days (I know that there are people that will say God was speaking to the Jews where they were at, but there are words in the Jewish language for long periods of time, and this would in reality make God a liar) so if we throw out something that scripture quite clearly states, the n why shouldn't we throw out the rest? We've effectively decided that man's ideas are more important than God's word, so why don't we throw out all those other things that "science" says can't exist, such as the virgin birth, water into wine, walking on the water, feeding the five thousand, healing the blind, and of course... The resurrection of the dead. Believing in an old-earth will not stop you from going to heaven if you asked Jesus to forgive you for your sin, but if we reinterpret one part of the Bible because of man's fallible ideas, then why don't we just take this all the way to it's conclusion and get rid of the cross?

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

To Anonymous: I keep meaning to assemble some of the interesting theological perspectives I found on this from Martin Gardner's "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener". One day I'll get to it. Until then, there's Index to Creationist Claims: Philosophy and Theology

Emanuel Hai said...

"rspeir", I was searching on google for Yec's who believe a calendar day view of Genesis 1 is compatible with Big Bang Theory and I've found this site.

Doesn't it creates chronological problem when the Sun, the moon and the stars is created on fourth day and the earth is created on the first day?

Do you know any famous proponent of this view?

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

To Emanuel Hai,

From the YEC position, anything goes since you can invoke miracles at will. There are no constraints.

I think the OECs such as Ross' "Reasons To Believe" get around these conflicts through a 'day-age' scenario but it does seem odd to have the Earth formed so much earlier than the rest of the solar system.