Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Review of Exploring Creation with Astronomy – Apologia Series

Added 07/30/08 - Since I posted this blog, I have had the opportunity to discuss what I wrote with Mary O. Daly, author of "Creator and Creation", "Genesis 1 House Of The Covenant" and "A Doorway of Amethyst: Beginning Geology". More information about Mary Daly and her publications can be found at: http://www.hedgeschool.com/

With Mary's permission, I am including annotations in red which are comments resulting from our exchange, and which I felt would be useful for anybody that may come across this blog.

I had the opportunity to review the Exploring Creation with Creation book in an effort to try and find a good science book for our daughter in 6th grade. The issue we have been having is that we neither wanted children to be confused with secular doctrines nor with the misconceptions and distortion present in the beliefs of many evangelical Christians. The quotes below are the ones I had most problems with. In general, the book brings in God at every possible opportunity. While I have no objection to accepting God’s role in creation and in all that is around us, it is my humble opinion that there is no need for the amount of preaching that is implicit in these books. Science is God’s creation. Studied honestly and with an open heart and mind it inevitably leads you to God. Only a hard heart and a closed mind would deny the existence of God in what is seen around us and in all that we discover and study. My biggest concern in this book is that not only the fact that these people do not have the authority to be making the biblical interpretations they make, but also, that they distort scientific theory, fact, etc to suit their interpretation of the Bible. Faith and science have their individual roles – Science tells us how, Religion tells us why…The function/motive of faith/religion is superior to that of science but not exclusive; secondly, it is my belief that religion/faith is the climax of our search for the truth (the top of an ascending pyramid) and hence the addition of all the truths. Science and religion stand on either side of Philosophy (defined by the dictionary as the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct) – not in opposition but complementing each other. This is totally in accordance with the teachings of Vatican Council II (see Gaudium et Spes, 36) as both religion and science express rational realities though from their different angles (see also CCC 159).

What follows are the quotes that I had issue with and some short comments. My comments are in bold:

1. “The first chapter of the book of Genesis tells us that the heavens and the earth were created in six days. God took a great deal of care with the earth before He created other things. In the first three days, God created the oceans, mountains, plants, and trees. Then, on the fourth day (before He made any animal on earth), He made the stars and planets in the sky. Genesis 1:14-15 tells us, “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.’ And it was so.” Pg 3

This paragraph sets the scene to the construction of this book, what is to come and the “doctrine” of creation that the authors are choosing to follow.

2. “…God placed the planets and sent them to circle around the sun at the perfect distance….” Pg 6

This is another example of preachiness and “polite” refutation of anything that science may say (e.g. Big Bang Theory etc) about how the universe and solar system may have come to be where they are at the present time (Please Note: What I am saying is not denying that God was involved in creating the universe but that matters may have been more complicated that the simple narration found in the scripture)

"Divine intention for the placement and beauty of the planets is an appropriate meditation, but divine intervention for the placement of each planet is simply superfluous as a postulate about the working of the solar system. St. Albertus Magnus said, about 1000 years ago, that " in studying nature we have not to enquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power ; we have rather to enquire what nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass." This is the work of astronomy"

3. “Thermonuclear fusion tells us that there could not have been life on earth billions, or even millions, of years ago. You see, since the sun is getting brighter and brighter each year, if we were to go back in time, we would see the sun getting dimmer and dimmer each year. In fact, if we were to go back billions of years, the sun would have been so dim, or faint, that it could not have provided enough warmth for life on earth.

If temperature on earth were much cooler than they are now, there would be terrible consequences. Oceans would freeze, and it would be winter all the time. Even with the sun’s current hot temperature, Antarctica is sill very, very cold. Scientists have discovered that the sun would have been many times cooler, actually more than 30% cooler, if it were here billions of years ago. No life could have survived on the earth if the sun were that cool, because the earth would have been a frozen chunk of ice water, with frozen land scattered about. Not a single thing could survive such temperatures. This gives us good evidence that life on earth is young, certainly not millions or billions of years old, as some might want you to believe.
” Pg 20

Science does not predict that life existed immediately. It would take the right environment for life to flourish. The point is that if one wishes to push the “young earth” concept, the burden of proof is on people making such claim (of a young earth) since, geology and many other science disciplines point towards an old earth. Simply saying “the bible says so” does not suffice as the bible is not a scientific document and making a statement as above without presenting any solid evidence to support one argument and deny the other is not acceptable either. St. Augustine says “Nowhere in the Gospel do we read that the Lord said: “I am sending you a Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and the moon.” For He wanted to make Christians, not mathematicians”.

"As any astronomer knows, all stars have various cycles of heating and cooling, growth and diminution of size." Mary gave the analogy of a person's head...If anybody's head grew at the same rate as it did in the first couple of years of a person's life for the rest of their life, by adulthood they would not fit through their front door!!!

4. “The bible tells us that we will not always need the sun as we do now. When the Lord returns and transforms the world back to its original perfection, God will be the light for us in the day and the night. His light will be all the light we need. Isaiah 60:19 says, “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Not for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory.” Pg 23

This is a clear example of the absolute literal interpretation of the Bible. Isaiah is probably the prophet that most clearly predicts the coming of Christ the Messiah – e.g. See Is 7:14 amongst others as well as the numerous references made to Isaiah in the New Testament. It would not be an great stretch of the imagination (if any is required) to understand that this is a reference to the coming of Christ, who made present among us the Kingdom of God (see Chapter 3 of Pope Benedicts XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth) and who said of himself “I am light of the world” Jn 8:12.

"This is simply theology, not astronomy, and very poor theology at that, for it implies that the sun is finite because of original sin, forgetting that it is a beautiful light, called "good" by God. Finity is not the result of sin; it is the result of God's decision to create in time."

5. “Amazingly, parts of Mercury have no craters. The fact that parts of Mercury are craterless is difficult to understand for those who believe that the solar system is millions or billions of years old. You see, over millions or billions of years, every part of the planet would have gotten hit many, many times by falling asteroids. Scientists know that the chances of some parts of Mercury never getting craters over billions of years is next to impossible. The best explanation for why Mercury has sections with no craters is that the solar system is not millions or billions of years old. However, scientists who want to believe that the solar system is that old have come up with another explanation. They say that the craterless sections are the “new parts of Mercury. According to these scientists, the “new” parts of Mercury were formed recently by volcanic eruptions. Since these sections are not very old, they have not had time to be struck by asteroids yet, so they have no craters. Of course, we know that God created the whole planet of Mercury instantly, with only a Word. I also believe that the whole planet is not nearly that old, because I think the Bible tells us that God spoke it into existence only a few thousand years ago.” Pg 33-34

Presumably this is a reference to the intercrater plains. Below are pictures comparing Mercury (A) to the earth’s moon (B), and Callisto (C) (a moon of Jupiter). As the pictures below show (except for the unmapped region on Mercury (the smooth beige area)) intercrater plains are no anomaly. The intercrater plains have been most extensively studied on the moon. There are several theories as to how they form. It is not known which of the theories applies to Mercury. Again the burden of proof here lies on those making the claim above, since this phenomenon is not uncommon and the presence of these plains under no circumstances is an automatic support for a young solar system.

"It is the job of astronomers to figure what is going on, not throw up their hands and say, "God did it!" every time something surprises them" As Mary pointed out, this mentality is "anti-intellectual" and defies the whole purpose of science and scientific investigation.

(A) apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap011124.html
(B) www.unm.edu/~abqtom/observing_the_moon.htm
(C) http://www.britannica.com/ebc/art/print?id=71534&articleTypeId=1

6. “…..You see [regarding the opposite rotation of Venus], some scientists think the universe began by a big accident in space. The way they describe this is that all the planets just formed out of a huge explosion (they call it the “big bang”) that sent particles into space. Those particles then eventually formed stars and the planets that orbit around the stars. Well, if this were so, all the planets would have been formed spinning in the same direction. Venus’s rotation is strong evidence that this did not happen. Venus spins in the opposite direction of most planets, so it is hard to understand how it could form from the same bits of dust that some people think all things came from.” Pg 43

Such paragraphs make one wonder why there is even a need for science. If our faith and religion were science, then what is science? The natural sciences involve the investigation of the material environment however “science” means “knowledge” and it involves the systematic study of anything. This includes Theology which involves the gaining of knowledge about God. This far it is understandable. However God created a material universe rich in diversity and beckoning to be investigated/studied for us to gain knowledge about. However why should we need to bother with sciences such as geology, biology, physics, chemistry etc. etc. etc. if the only science there is, as such statements imply, is what is written in the Bible??? This statement again contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church including what is said in Gaudium et Spes (see introduction).

"So if something is hard to understand, we just give up and quit studying. That's a Protestant scientist for you. " I [Stephen] would add, that this unfortunate and wrong mentality is being adopted by many Catholics. I have come across it amongst many homeschooling parents who want "God in their science" but fail and refuse to see that in what they are doing, they are corrupting the truth and ultimately leading their children into a confused concept of God and His creation, if not I dare say away from God. Not only this, some even have the gaul to attack those who side with the facts that science presents, inadvertently denying truth itself which does not contradict anything related to our faith. Mary continues "First off, the description of the Big Bang is extremely naïve and even insulting.....I have given several descriptions of this concept, originally put forth by a Catholic priest and insultingly named the Big Bang later on, and only much later acknowledged for what it really is – a reasoned description of something about the origin of the universe – that it had an origin, first of all.

Anyway, there are at least two ways that Venus could get its different spin. One is that the uneasy relationship between its core and mantle might have caused it to flip; another is that its heavy atmosphere might have slowed and then reversed its spin, which is quite ponderous now, the day being longer than the year. Here's the reference which anyone could have googled:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn879-back-flip.html"

7. “Creation scientists believe that if anyone ever finds signs of life on Mars, it will not be Martian life they find, but earth life that made it to Mars! After all, if a piece of earth left our atmosphere, it would take with it many cells and bacteria, which are living things. If we do find life on Mars, then, it will most likely be life that traveled to Mars on space rocks.” Pg81, similar statement on Pg 85 in relation to “….if there was liquid water there”

Though I am not one who believes that there is life on another planet, however I will not speculate what may be in the mind of God. I also have my doubts (though not scientific proof as I have not looked into the matter) as to how possible it would be for any form of life, aerobic and anaerobic to live in the extremely hostile environment provided by outer space.

"If you read Rare Earth, by Ward and Brownlee, you will understand that bacterial life may have come to earth from abroad. It can withstand incredible extremes, as we know even from the extremophiles earth, bacteria which live in the most extraordinary environments. It is of no significance, theologically or scientifically, whether we or Mars got life first, and such an opinion about future research (suggesting it would be worthless) has no place in a textbook." (emphasis is mine [Stephen])

8. “The fact that comets burn off their ice as they approach the sun is a problem for those who want to believe that the solar system is billions of years old. You see, if the solar system were billions of years old, the short-period comets that come by the sun so often would have no ice left on them by now! Since some comets come close to the sun every 70-80 years but still have ice on them they can’t be very old at all! In fact, comets must only be a few thousand years old since they still have ice on them. If they were millions or billions of years old, the ice would have all burnt off by now.

Of course, if you want to believe that the solar system is billions of years old, you can find some way to get around this problem. Those who believe that the solar system is very old think that there are sources in the solar system that continually produce new comets. They even have names for these sources: the Kuiper Belt and the Oort cloud. They believe that the Kuiper Blet produces short-period comets and that the Oort cloud produces long-period comets. Although the Kuiper Belt does exist (you will study it later on in the course), it does not have nearly enough dirty snowballs in it to continually make new comets, so it doesn’t seem like a good source for short-period comets. We have never even seen the Oort cloud, so we don’t even know whether or not it exists. Even if it does exist, it probably doesn’t have enough dirty snowballs, either. In the end it seems more reasonable to believe that the solar system is only a few thousand years old.” Under title “Creation confirmation
” Pg 93

These paragraphs lack scientific integrity. Because something is not seen, it does not mean that it does not exist. If it were so, we could say something similar about the existence of God!!! However Romans 1:20 tells us “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.” Thus the same principle can be applied to science. That is how hypotheses are formed (i.e. from observations of either the “action” or the “reaction”. That is how theories are formed. If, for the creationist, “A” does not exist, while a scientist proposes the existence of “A” on the basis of x, y and z, once more (and I have repeated this many times before), the burden of proof is on the party denying the existence of “A”, since if evidence and proof points towards the existence of “A”, under no circumstances do “probablies” based on the outright denial of presented evidence (direct or indirect) make scientific conclusions or any form of argument; they do not even make a theory!!!

"The Oört cloud is simply the collection of distant solar system material that harbors water as rock-hard ice – because it is distant enough to do so. I myself see no reason to see it as a cloud (nor did my astronomer father) but it simply stands to reason that:

1) Water is likely to exist anywhere that oxygen and hydrogen exist
2) Small icy bodies of the solar system can only exist far from the sun
3) Their orbits are bound to vary and change and disturb each other
4) Those that are bounced closer will get their tails and be visible from earth.
5) The close ones will not last as long as the distant ones.
6) If they don't last, there will never be very many
7) The distant ones will not easily be observed.

It would follow that the far reaches of the solar system could re-supply the Kuiper belt from time to time, and this is not at all far-fetched or difficult to understand. Research is what's difficult, because it's hard to see small things that are far away; worse: research is never funded by the incurious" which is the mentality that the authors of this series seem to espouse.

9. “Guess what happens when you find a planet? You get to name it! Well, Herschel was not an ancient Roman who believed in false gods. In fact, he was a devout Christian. Because of this, he didn’t want to name Uranus after a Roman god. Instead he wanted to name Uranus after his King, King George III…….In the end, they decided to keep with tradition and name Uranus after another Roman god. It is such a shame that the planets in God’s wonderful creation, which were made for His glory, have been named after Satan’s counterfeit gods. One day when we are in heaven, we will call the planets by God-honoring names.” (pg 124)

While Satan’s involvement and efforts in tempting humans are not to be discounted, humans also have free will. The human experience throughout history is one continually searching for God (its source) – As St. Augustine tell us in his Confessions “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (Book 1, Chap 1). This includes the search for the true God that pagans experienced. One may interpret from the above paragraph, that the study of ancient Rome/Greece and their culture is evil! If God was still revealing himself to the Jewish people, and Christ had not yet come, what are the Romans to blame if God chose the Jews as His people? A good depiction/explanation of this is in the 7th book in the Chronicles of Narnia, ‘The Last Battle’ where Aslan is explaining how a ‘pagan’ worshiper of Tash could actually end up in paradise with Aslan. My point can also be reflected in what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says “The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."” (CCC 843). This does NOT negate the fact that the Catholic Church holds the fullness of the truth, but spares judgment and condemnation of those searching for it.

Mary makes a point here that is truly humorous, though serious. She questions "by exactly what concept of American history is an American Christian supposed to think it more God-honoring to name a planet" for an English monarch then for characters from Greek mythology.

10. Re: Black hole “The Bible says that this world is passing away (Matt 24:35). Star deaths point to a decaying universe, just like the Bible says.” Pg 144

Black hole point to a universe that is groaning from the decay forced upon it by Satan and the sin of man” Pg 145

Again, this is a twisting of the scriptures to suit the biblical interpretation of science. The world has been passing away since the beginning. At a person’s death, the world passes away. Also, while we do not really know exactly what would have happened had humans never sinned, it appears to be quite clear that animals were not created for eternal life. Only humans were created in the image of God and for eternal life (CCC 1018), therefore “decay” of some sort would have still existed as a natural course. Furthermore, Satan forced nothing upon this universe….Man voluntarily accepted to disobey God.

"In suggesting that black holes, which are probably as numerous as anthills, are the result of sin, Wile makes the universe a tribute to the power of Satan, rather than a pointer to the glory of God.".....Black holes are not the result of sin, but of physical gravity. Even before Adam sinned, there were innumerable black holes, such as the one at the center of our galaxy." (emphasis is mine [Stephen]).

11. “Some people claim that since some stars are billions of light years away, the universe (and therefore the earth) must be billions of years old. After all, they think that the light from those stars had to travel from the star to the earth, and since the light is hitting the earth, it must have had billions of years to travel. They do not understand that God is so wise that He could create things to be exactly as He wants them to be. If He could create the first man to be fully grown and fully developed, He could create stars and their light to be fully grown and fully developed as well. He could create an earth with starlight that was already upon the earth, even starlight from billions of light years away. After all, nothing is impossible for God.

There is another reason that the stars can be billions of light years away and the earth could still be quite young. A man named Dr. Humphreys, who is a scientist, wrote a book called Starlight and Time. This book tells us that the universe might actually be a lot older than the earth, because the universe around us aged differently than the earth itself.

Dr. Humphreys believes that the whole universe centers around the earth and our solar system. This makes sense, since God created the earth before He made the stars. Dr. Humphreys also believes that during the initial creation discussed in the book of Genesis, time moved faster in the outer regions of the universe than it did on earth. In other words, Dr. Humphreys believes that outer space got older more quickly than the earth and our solar system did. Because of this, even if God did not create the light from the stars already shining on the earth, light from the stars would have had time to travel to the earth, even if the earth is very young. After all, if the universe aged more quickly than the earth, the universe could be very old, while the earth is still very young. Although it might seem strange to you that the universe could age differently than the earth, this is actually an idea that most scientists understand. When you get older, you might study something called relativity, which explains how this can happen
.” Pg 149-150

The last few lines of the paragraph seem to imply the earth as the center of the universe, or at most our solar system as the center of the universe, which we know there is sufficient evidence that this is not the case. From my understanding, while the theory of General relativity explains that time slows down under gravity, the explanation given in the paragraph above twists this theory. The result of the Big Bang would have been a uniform expansion away from the source. The evidence points to an expanding universe (another reflection of the original expansion away from the source), meaning that our galaxy/solar system etc, would be moving away in the same way as the other galaxies/stars etc. It is my personal opinion that Dr. Humphrey’s definition of “outer space” is thus flawed, because this is a relative term, i.e. speaking from the point of view of an observer on earth. To a hypothetical observer in some other galaxy, our solar system/galaxy would be outer space.

Without going into further detail, it is amazing what amount of energy is expounded in inventing potential theories to try and make science fit the Bible and in the process disprove what science is theorizing from the observations being made. This is a total contradiction to the concept of searching for the truth.


"....relativity does not provide a way for the universe in general to be older than the earth. The idea that the stars and the earth are responding to different physical laws was abandoned about the time of Galileo when it became clear that the Moon had mountains. It is unconscionable to return to it in this manner."

12. Under the heading “Gospel in the Stars?”

Although some people used to tell stories about their false gods using the constellations, the one true God the one who created the constellations. God mentions them several times in the Bible as something He created. Some Christians believe that God originally intended the constellations to symbolically tell the story of Jesus, our Savior! God says in the Bible, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, And guide the Bear with her satellites? (Job 38:31-32)…….In the above Bible verse God is telling Job about the constellations that He created and intended for us to know. Historians know that the first people to tell stories about the stars by constellations were God’s people: the ancient Hebrews.”….goes on to describe how some constellations represent Jesus (a lion), his birth from a virgin (Virgo), a serpent (representing Satan)….etc. Pg 153

This paragraph appears to contradict the paragraph discussed under point 9 above. In that paragraph the pagan names of the stars where evil and yet here God is “seen” using constellation names invented by man, which were nothing more than superstition! Is God therefore contradicting himself by using the pagan allocations? The claim to Hebrews being the first to tell stories with constellations is baseless, since different cultures also have different constellations. If anything, the constellations we are familiar with found their roots in Mesopotamia and then Greece….. Now Mesopotamia is the region where Abraham originally came from!

13. under “Corruption of Truth” Satan blamed for astrology…. (Pg 154)

Again, Satan is blamed for the evils of astrology. This, along with other claims, some of which have been mentioned above, deny the free will that humans have. While Satan tempted Eve to sin, it was Eve’s (and Adam’s) choice to accept the lie. The importance of free will and the decisions taken therewith are evident from the examples taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.” (CCC 1731)

“The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man.” (CCC 1853)

Conclusion:

I pray that I am not being scrupulous, however, as a Catholic scientist seeking the truth in what I do and given the clear support that the Church has for honest science and investigation as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us “Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth” (CCC159), I have strong objections to this book Exploring Creation of the Apologia series, as I believe that the “science” they present is a “science” concocted to fit their wrong and unauthoritative interpretation of the scripture which only the Catholic Church has the authority to do “2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"” (CCC 113)

In making such wrong interpretations their actions are morally irresponsible and intrinsically wrong.

I would therefore, hesitate greatly in using this book to teach science to my children, as I believe that it actually requires more effort in that 1. you need to say that what is being said is wrong; 2. that they are interpreting the scriptures without authority and wrongly and 3. you then need to search for what is truly known and theorized.

God Bless (+)

Stephen