Your book Is There a God? made me have more doubts than before I read the book.
Editor’s note: This question had so many parts, I decided to dispense with the usual style of giving the whole question, followed by my whole answer. Responses are in italics.
I have finished the book and I have to say that I have more doubts about God than I had before reading it. I mean no disrespect but there are things in the book that left me unsettled. I would like to let you know what they were. I actually found the book interesting until chapter 5 and it became scary after that especially chapters 8 and 9.
I am not sure how reading my book could possibly make you have more doubts than you did before. Are you sure you are not being a bit over-the-top here? In any case, these are perfectly legitimate questions, so let’s go.
Chapter 5This one starts off god and makes sense on a surface reading of Genesis. When one looks closer, things aren’t as scientific as they seem to be. Aside from the 24 hour version, there are a number of problems with the text.
I make it plain that Genesis 1 is not a science thesis, but is instead a theological treatise. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the account makes any positive statements which are in obvious disagreement with what I know as a scientist.
1) Some translations say that the expanse in the sky is actually a dome
True. The writer is constrained to use vocabulary available to him in writing. If you can propose a better word in ancient Hebrew than the one chosen that is fine, but the writer in the ancient Near East was constrained to use words which were associated with incorrect cosmology. It is like me saying that the sun set yesterday. You and I both know that the sun does not set. I see no error here, but the best use of available vocabulary to describe the fact that God created the heavens (in this case sky or universe beyond the earth) and the earth.
2) Life on land did not come first. We show simple life in the ocean coming before plants.
True, but is this a legitimate criticism of a theological treatise? Should the author have said that microorganism appeared first in the ocean (assuming the likely prospect that it did appear there first). I believe that the author of Genesis 1 did not even have a word for a microorganism. It is true that the Genesis author mentions teeming life forms in the sea after vegetation on the land, but he/she does not specify that life actually began on the land.
3) Some translations show that the whales were created with marine life when the fossils show whales evolved from land mammals
Whales are not mentioned in Genesis 1, even if one translation out there uses the word whale. As far as I know, the Jews did not even have a word for whale. This is a translation issue, not an issue with the Genesis account.
4) Birds were not created with marine life but evolved from dinosaurs
The Jews had no word for dinosaurs. Neither did they have a word for evolution. What the Genesis writer said is: Let the water teem with living creatures and let birds fly above the earth. Where is the scientific error in this? Basically, the Genesis writer gives credit to God for creating every kind of life, and does not mention the specific mechanism God used to do this (for example an evolutionary process, for which Jews would not even have a means to describe it)
5) Man was not created from dust created but evolved form ape like creatures based on the many pieces of evidence (which is addressed in chapter
I agree with you on this, and have always taken the formation “from dust” to be metaphorical. Man was formed from physical matter and is therefore a physical being who also is made in God’s image.
6) Woman did not come from man’s rib
Agreed. This is metaphorical–done to reflect the fact that man and woman are equal. They walk side by side.
7) Population genetics shows we cam from a group of 10, 000 not 2
A good scientific theory but certainly not proven. It is a bit speculative, but not without reason. If God took an evolved intelligent primate and put in the first man and woman a soul, a spirit, self-consciousness, free will and so forth, then that may well have been Adam and Eve. Note that I cannot prove this is what happened scientifically, nor to I claim that I can prove this.
8) Not all animals ate plants but were predators
The Genesis account does not say that all the first animals were vegetarians. This is a common misconception. What it does say is that God gave the plants for food. (Genesis 1:29). Nowhere does it say or even imply that meat was not eaten before home divinus arrived on the earth.
I know one can dismiss this as metaphor or show the over all theme of the text but then one can’t say that Genesis lines up with science.
OK, but I guess I disagree with this conclusion.
Chapter 6 and 7I think these chapters were also interesting but my main issue is that you were showing that bible can’t be falsified. You claimed that the bible is not a scientific text at first in chapter 5 but then show all the scientific claims made in it. You show all the claims made that are correct to be literal but all the claims that were not correct are metaphor or miracles. Doesn’t this put the bible in a position where it can never be wrong? If so, wouldn’t this be bias?
I think that this criticism of my book is a reasonable one. The question of medical wisdom can be treated as a separate subject, which is what I do. This chapter stands by itself, but I will accept that this criticism is not without merit.
Chapter 8I’m not sure if your thoughts on human evolution or evolution in general have changed since the book was written in 1999. We have made new fossil and genetic discoveries since then. Fossils like tiktaalik and A. Sediba, chromosome 2 fusion, ERV virus and phylogenetics. The evidence keeps coming in for evolution. Do you believe in common descent now or still believe that lifeforms appeared out of nowhere? If that latter then you know that’s not science and admit that in the book but this won’t convince the skeptic atheist. In fact, it’s this very thing that turns them away from theism. A possible explanation to the sudden appearance of lifeforms is that we can’t expect to have every fossil that ever lived. Fossilization is a somewhat special process that that only happens when the organism is rapidly buried and not preyed upon. In the end it sort f seems that the position taken is Fideism, a belief held despite evidence to the contrary. A couple og things did get me thinking though. One was the nod to haldane’s dilenma and th other was the differen in numbers from one lifeform to another. BTW, what is your opinion on phyogenetics? I Have have heard that they work and have heard that they are not working.
Yes, my thinking on evolution has evolved (ha ha) in the past 14 years. There is a presentation on evolution at my web site which is much more up-to-date. Since 1999 I have taken a class on evolution (something I wish I had done earlier, but my last bio class was in high school). I have NEVER denies the idea of common descent. I also agree with you that the evidence for common descent from a DNA perspective is pretty much a slam dunk. This does not mean that God did not guide the process or even step in and intervene at times. I believe he did, but I obviously cannot prove this from science, as science can only ask questions about natural processes. I did a four-way debate titled “Four Christian Views of Evolution” three years ago. Without going into detail, I have a feeling you and I would be in substantial agreement on this topic.
Chapter 9This chapter seems to seriously question the event of the flood even the possibility of a local flood. The biggest piece of evidence is all the flood accounts and even that is sketchy. The geography, the animal distribution, the scattered cultures doesn’t line up with the story. Again you admit this but again you just accept it on faith just like human creation. The skeptic needs the bible to line up with reality or it will be rejected. You believe that the flood must have happened because the rest of the bible is right. What if the flood didn’t happen and that makes the rest of the bible wrong especially all the references made to it in the NT? You mentioned in a previous email that uniformitarianism is being questioned and that catastrophism is seeing a revival. Is this in relation to the earth’s geology and if so can this lend credence to the flood?
What can I say to this one. I freely confess that I take some of the statements of the Bible on faith. I am simply being honest with you and with my readers here. I take on faith that David killed Goliath. Well, not just on faith, because the most reliable ancient history account mentions this, but outside the Bible, obviously I will not be able to prove this. I am sorry, but I will not bow to the requirement of the skeptic that absolutely nothing can be taken on faith. Sorry if this bothers you, but that is where I come from. I am NOT saying that the revival of catastrophism reinforces belief in the flood. Definitely not.
Chapter 10I was somewhat confused by this chapter at first. Why do you think that the constants of the universe are designed but not biological life as in the ren example? I always thought this was weird concerning theistic evolutionists. Why would God go through so much trouble designing the universe and the word just to let life evolve randomly? Why go through so much detail to prepare a place for something just to stop when you get to the something you were preparing things for? Also, some have argued that the universe and our world are not designed because of all the harsh conditions like space, black holes, deserts, mountains. The earth is 70% uninhabitable.
I am not in a place to explain every “why” for what God did. All I can say is that an argument against God based on time or size is really a red herring as God, as I understand him, is not affected by either time or space. Why did God create the universe in an instant, and then allow billions of years for the universe to evolve? I do not know, but that appears to be the case. Even if the earth was 70% uninhabitable, which is definitely not the case (unless you are using the 70% that is covered by water, which is essential to stable life forms, that is), how is that an argument against God? This is not a logical argument. The fact is that the universe is unimaginably huge and, for all we know, life exists in an indescribably tiny portion of it. How is this an argument against the existence of God or the inspiration of the Bible. Black holes may be harsh. So are stars. But both are required for a universe in which life can evolve over time. It seems to me that God did a pretty good job in his design. I do not think that I could improve on it.
AppendixThis chapter went over my head but I will ask if you think that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics? There is a debate going on with an IDist named Granville Sewell concerning his video “evolution is a tornado running backwards”. He has received a lot of flak from atheists for it being wrong but he swears he is right on this. What do you think?
I am not generally impressed by the ID camp and have written an essay (at my web site!) explaining why I am not a proponent of ID. This was one of the four views I did not agree with in our debate (although the guy who defended is a friend of mine!). I do not believe that evolution is inherently a violation of the 2nd law of thermo, but I am skeptical that undirected, fully random processes would ever have led to the development of us. I believe that God steered the process, but I will fully and publicly admit that this is a speculative scenario which obviously cannot be proven by science, as science, by its very nature, only admits for fully “natural” (and therefore random) events.
I hope this helps.