Thursday, February 05, 2015

The problems with the mature creation view (ADD)

I suggest, then, that the mature creation view offers an attractive supplement to the 24-hour view. It retains all the main advantages of the 24-hour-day view, by maintaining that God created the universe within six 24-hour days. It supplements this view with a clear and simple explanation for the conclusions of modern astronomy. The universe appears to be 14 billion years old because God created it mature. Moreover, the universe is coherently mature, in the sense that estimates of age deriving from different methods arrive at similar results. [Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Science: A God-centered Approach (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 116]

... But the idea of mature creation threatens to produce doubts in their mind. If God would do something like this, which appears to be deceptive, how can we trust him in other areas? ... If Adam sensed that the animals were new, he would have had a doctrine of mature creation with respects to the animals. He saw adult animals, but understood that they were freshly created. (Ibid., 117)

But now a more nuanced objection arises: mature structures are not a problem, but records or traces of earlier apparent events from an unreal (ideal) past are a problem. ... (Ibid., 118)

It sounds as if the objector by contrast, cannot really accept mature creation, but rather only creation of a complex structure. And this structure would then have no record within it of a past history. According to this model, God created Adam or a tree but without coherent apparent age. Coherent age would point both to earlier structures and to earlier events &mash; and the latter the objector cannot accept. (Ibid., 119)

When Jesus turned water into wine at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-11), the wine would have tasted like the product from grapes. Presumably, it would be a complex structure. But could it have contained any grape plant cells or yeast cells or fragments from cells? Such cells would contain DNA, and the DNA would by its distinctive signature enable a scientist to infer from what grapevine stock the wine derived. He would then infer past events like the picking of the grapes, the pressing in a wine press, the operation of yeast in aging, and so on.

The objector now seems to be on the horns of a dilemma. He might claim that the drink at Cana in Galilee only tasted like wine, but did not have the complex inner structure that would include the remains of yeast cells. But that would mean a denial that God could have freshly created complex structures in a moment. ... So suppose that he allows that the wine might actually yeast cell DNA. In that case, he seems to allow both mature structures (yeast cells) and apparent past events that one can infer from them (cell growth and division). I conclude, then, that a hard-and-fast distinction between complex structures and mature structures with an ideal past is implausible. (Ibid., 119-20)

On the days of creation, Poythress tends towards the analogical day view, but he has sympathy for the mature creation view. Poythress claims that the "indisputable" findings of astronomy makes the 24-hour view untenable, and thus a belief in a "mature creation" as a supplement would rescue it as a viable theory. Poythress then attempts to answer objections to the mature creation view, attempting to show that it does not result in God being deceptive at all.

First of all, Poythress is wrong in his certainty concerning the findings of astronomy. As I have shown, Poythress misrepresented Russell Humphreys' white hole cosmology. Alternate cosmologies such as his might just be able to explain astronomical data without the need for billions of years. There is thus no need to supplement a 6-24 view with a belief in mature creation.

With regards to Poythress' argument, Poythress is right in pointing out that Adam and Eve and the animals are created mature. Thus, the presence of mature structures do not suggest that they get to be that way because of the duration of long periods of time. The "more nuanced" objection that Poythress mentioned is however the crux of the objection against the mature creation view. The issue is not so much an appearance of age in complex structures, but there is the presence of "coherent ages" indicating apparent events in "an unreal past." But Poythress does not frame the objection in its best form. The problem with the mature creation view is that the phenomena that indicate "coherent age" contains information about the past which would not be otherwise present if the past was unreal. Take the example of distant starlight. Holding the mature creation view would indicate that the light from any stellar body beyond about 10,000 light-years away consist of photons created in transit. Therefore, such light is not truly indicative of what is happening in the stellar bodies. But when the light portrays for example a supernova, taking the mature creation view must say that the supernova did not actually happen since the light containing the information about the supernova was created in transit. How is this not deceptive, to indicate an astronomical event which did not actually happen?

Poythress attempts to use the miracle of Jesus' turning water into wine at Cana as an example of why this "nuanced" objection is invalid. Poythress asked us whether the wine is actually wine with remnants of yeast cell and yeast DNA. In response, it is to be asked whether these are essential for wine to be wine, and the answer is no. We can take any wine that is naturally produced, remove all yeast cells and, if it were possible, all yeast cell DNA and grape DNA and any other cell remnants, and the resulting beverage would still be wine. The elements of wine are the various organic and trace inorganic chemicals that together in certain proportions give us wine. Yeast's function in wine production is to convert sugars to alcohol, not to be part of the essence of wine. Poythress' example thus does not show that such a distinction is not possible. In fact, it would have been better for Poythress to actually address how the mature creation view can answer the issue of "coherent age" with respects to distant starlight. As I have point out, should those who hold on to the mature creation view hold to the creation of light in transit and thus the creation of false information about astronomical phenomena?

It might be tempting to take the mature creation view as a cop-out against wrestling with the scientific data, as it might be tempting to take the Framework view as a cop-out against resolving the tension between science and the Genesis account. But such is not the right way, for we hold that God does not contradict Himself. What is revealed in General Revelation (astronomical data, NOT theories) cannot be discarded as illusionary but must be properly addressed. Yes, science is not the same as General Revelation, which is why we do not have to explain the "concordance" between the Big Bang Theory and the Genesis account but rather the astronomical data with the Genesis account. The problem with the mature creation theory is the problem of information, not the presence of phenomena, and this Poythress did not adequately address.

P.S.: When I mention that one must take into account the data of astronomy, I am well aware that there are no such things as brute data. Rather, what I am saying is that one must account for the data, either through explaining how it makes sense in one's system, or by questioning how it is collected and offering an viable alternative explanation of the collection and results of data.

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