Dr. Mullan and Kolbe Center Dialogue Continues
Dr. Mullan has drafted a response to the Kolbe Center critique of his article, “How Old is the Earth?”. Following this response is another reply to Dr. Mullan from H. Owen and Dr. Robert Bennett.
A Reply to Dr. Mullan’s Response to Our Critique of “The Age of the Earth”
by Hugh Owen and Robert Bennett
Response to H Owen and R Bennett
critique of “How Old is the Earth?”
by Dermott J. Mullan
Some of the main concerns expressed by OB have to do with the particular translation that I used for my quotes from two encyclicals: Providentissimus Deus (PD) and Humani Generis (HG). Because OB cannot locate certain specific words in the translations to which they refer, they accuse me of a number of things: (i) lack of integrity, (ii) using “a phantom quotation”, (iii) “cavalier treatment of a papal encyclical”, and (iv) taking quotations from a Protestant clergyman. These charges can be refuted by citing the reference work I use for my translation of the encyclicals.
I use a standard reference work entitled “The Church Teaches: Documents of the Church in English Translation” by John F. Clarkson et al. (of St Mary’s College, St Mary’s Kansas), first published in 1955 by Herder Book Company. The original book appeared with the Imprimi Potest and Nihil Obstat issued by religious superiors, as well as the Imprimatur of Edmund J. Hunkeler, Archbishop of Kansas City. The book was reissued by TAN books in 1973, and it is the TAN version that I use for my citations.
The words “irrefutable evidence” are not “a phantom quotation”, with “source unknown”, as OB claim. Instead, they appear on p. 50 (para. 106) of the TAN version of the English translation of PD. I note that these words are part of the translation of the following Latin words in Denzinger 1947: “Quidquid, inquit, ipsi de natura rerum veracibus documentis demonstrare potuerint, ostandamus nostris Litteris non esse contrarium”. The words “irrefutable evidence” which appear in The Church Teaches are not an unreasonable translation of the words “veracibus documentis”.
Similarly, OB claim that the quotation I cite from HG “However, it is not right to judge them by modern standards of historical composition” is “CERTAINLY NOT IN HG” (my emphasis added). However, OB regard it as significant that “the phrase does appear in a fundamentalist commentary on HG by a contemporary English vicar”. OB claim that because I include the above quotation in my NOR article, I am involved in the practice of “masquerading as a direct quotation from the encyclical”. OB refer to me as using a “butchered and bowdlerized version of an encyclical”. But as any reader may verify, the above quotation is a word-for-word quote from page 65 (para. 141) of The Church Teaches.
OB claim that I mislead readers by citing from HG some words that appeared originally in a letter from PCBS to the Archbishop of Paris. OB suggest that I am quoting the words from that letter as if they were the Pope’s own words. This is not a serious point: since the Pope actually quotes the words in his encyclical HG, he is in essence making the words of PCBS his own.
OB also criticize me for changing the indefinite article “a” to the definite article “the”: this is also not a serious point. As members of the Roman Catholic Church, we believe that the official teachings of the Church are contained in the Latin documents in Acta Apost. Sedis. Now, there are no articles in the Latin language: therefore, definite and indefinite articles are both acceptable English translations.
OB charge me with altering the text of Section 20 of HG, such that “more text is inserted and deleted than left untouched”. Perhaps OB are not aware of editorial constraints on word counts. An article in a magazine can simply not include every last word that an author would like to include: it is not the same as posting an article on one’s own web site! If there had been room to quote at length, I would have done so. I chose my abbreviated words so as to preserve the meaning of HG faithfully. I challenge OB to demonstrate how my abbreviated version is in any meaningful sense a departure from the true meaning of the HG text.
OB again charge me with not including certain paragraphs that Leo XIII writes in PD. But again I remind OB of the constraints on space in a magazine article. And I could direct the same charge at OB: why did they not cite the following words of the Pope in PD (Denz. 1948). “The unshrinking defense of Holy Scripture however does not require that we should equally uphold ALL OF THE OPINIONS which each of the Fathers or the more recent interpreters have put forth in explaining it; for it may be that, in commenting on passages WHERE PHYSICAL MATTERS OCCUR, they have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statement which IN THESE DAYS HAVE BEEN ABANDONED AS INCORRECT” (my emphasis added).
OB suggest that the age of the Universe is not 10-20 Gyr, and they refer to a “simpler finite model based on GR” theory by Russell Humphreys. The latter author published a book entitled “Starlight and Time” in which he tried to explain the redshifts of galaxies in terms of a relativistic process known as time dilation. However, Humphreys made a serious mistake in his work. In discussing time dilation, Humphreys got things precisely backwards: the effects of time dilation as outlined by Humphreys would be to create BLUE shifts, not redshifts, in galaxy spectra. This was first pointed out by J. Byl in CRS Quart. Vol. 34, p. 1 (1997). Moreover, a detailed quantitative criticism of Humphreys’s theory has been given by Conners and Page (CEN Tech J 12, 174, 1998): Humphreys theory simply cannot withstand the criticisms of physics. I have heard one of the authors of the latter piece (Don Page) openly profess his belief in Christ in a physics setting (highly unusual!), and Don Page certainly knows a lot more about physics than Humphreys does. As evidence for this statement, I point to Page’s successful publication of physics articles in highly critical refereed journals.
OB say that the Earth may be the center of the Universe, because “no physics experiment has ever detected whether the Earth is stationary (at the center) or in motion”. OB do not say how they interpret the observations of regular patterns of stellar motion due to annual parallax and the aberration of light. Astronomers have been measuring these now for 2-3 centuries, and both of them are signs of Earth’s orbital motion. Nor do OB mention how they interpret what the twelve astronauts saw when they stood on the Moon and looked back at Earth: the Earth was not stationary, but was rotating about its axis before their very eyes.
Why should people believe that the “Earth is the focus of physical creation”, based on what Robert Bellarmine said 400 years ago. As if being a saint and a cardinal confers infallibility concerning the physical world. Pope Leo XIII recognized in his encyclical PD that information about the physical world changes with time. In choosing to espouse beliefs such as the fixity of the Earth at the center of the Universe, the Kolbe Center runs the risk of making itself a laughing stock in the eyes of reasonable people. In a world where people have watched spacecraft travel to the outer planets (based on the laws of Newton), how many people does the Kolbe Center think it can convince that the Sun is not the principal body which controls the motion of bodies in the solar system?
As regards the 15 points based on cosmic data in the talk by J. Strada at the First Kolbe Conference (June 2002), I stand by my claim that a correct interpretation of these points (in the sense of being consistent with the laws of physics) does not at all point towards a young Earth, contrary to Strada’s conclusions. A few months ago, I started to discuss these 15 points with R. Bennett via e-mail, and we reached a measure of agreement concerning my criticisms of the first two points. But we never got past Point 3 (which dealt with hot stars). In the absence of an impartial umpire, there was no way to arrive at a decision one way of the other.
A Reply to Dr. Mullan’s Response to Our Critique
of “The Age of the Earth”
by Hugh Owen and Robert Bennett
We welcome Doctor Mullan’s clarification of his article in the New Oxford Review.
It seems reasonable to understand that The Church Teaches: Documents of the Church in English Translation (TCT) was used in good faith, but some points still seem puzzling, even after perusing the book.
- Why is the primary reference given now, only after being challenged, and not in the original article, saving considerable time and misunderstandings? Withholding sources is hardly up to scientific standards for publication.
- Why was such an abstruse reference chosen, authored by four Jesuits in the ‘50s who chose the document selections, rather than the Vatican sources at http://www.vatican.va/, which provide approved and complete translations, universally and immediately accessible?
- The preface of the book states that the theology student must be given a first-hand acquaintance with the pronouncements of the Church’s teaching authority. More on this later.
Then this in the Acknowledgment: “The editors of the Tablet have given permission for the use of Monsignor Knox’s translation of Humani Generis (HG) which appeared in the Tablet on 9/2/1950.” Humani Generis was delivered on 8/12/1950, leaving just three weeks for the translation to be made by Knox and published in the Tablet, an amazing turnaround, hardly indicative of thorough research of the Encyclical.
At last, the festering sore in the HG source translation has been identified – the problem is Msgr. Ronald Knox. (See http://www.catholicism.org/problem-knox.html )
Most Catholics today are not familiar with Mgsr. Knox, who died in 1958, or else have been given a false sense of his faith and role in history. His warm eulogies in The Times of London and Time magazine, two bastions of modernism, should give one a clue to the beliefs promoted by Fr. Knox. Rather than present our own opinion of his cynicism and pretentiousness, let the Knoxious prose that has caused his readers to be troubled in the Faith and beset with doubts speak for itself:
On leading Catholic lives: “You have a clique, an elite, of Christian men and (more importantly) women, who are trying to live a less worldly life than their neighbors. . .”
On heretics: (I am) “more concerned to find out why they thought as they did than to prove it was wrong . . . there is so much right on both sides.”
On Indulgences: “I can’t see why Almighty God shouldn’t indulgence all sorts of pious practices which aren’t indulgenced by the Church; shouldn’t give you or me the equivalent of a seven years’ indulgence when we get up to make room for an old lady in a bus.”
On the resurrection of the Body: “I do not see why God should not give me a Resurrection Body which is continuous with the body in which I write now, without having to search round for bits and pieces of the multitudinous matter which has, in my time, gone to the making of me.”
On Our Lady: “. . . most of the literature about her and the popular devotions connected with her leave me cold.”
The literal translation of Isaiah’s Vulgate text, Ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium, is “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and shall bear a son.” The Knox translation? “Maid shall be brought to bed of a son.”
At the marriage feast at Cana, Our Lord rebukes His Mother with, “Woman, leave me alone, do not interfere with me,” in line with the Tyndale and Cranmer Protestant Bible versions.
On Luke 22: “Luke omits the story of Mary anointing our Lord’s feet, presumably because he was not certain that he had not already told it.”
On Saint John’s inspired Gospel: “He will recall, as if conjuring them up with difficulty, details about names and places and relationships which have nothing much to do with the story. He will give us little footnotes, as if to make sure we are following; often unnecessary, often delayed instead of being put in their proper place. He will remember fragments of a conversation, passing on from this utterance to that by mere association of memory, instead of giving us a reasoned precis of the whole. He will alternately assume that we know the story already, and narrate it in meticulous detail . . . Probably no author but John could have begun his story in this topsy-turvy fashion . . . But, as we have seen, this is the way in which John’s memory works.”
On the authorship of Saint John’s Gospel: “Saint John never really sat down and wrote a Gospel; what we’ve got is the result of a series of Press Conferences, at which his disciples were plying him with questions all the time.” The reminiscences were “elicited from him piecemeal” and later cobbled together into the Fourth Gospel. Msgr. Knox warns us: “It looks as if their notes got muddled.”
On Saint Therese of Lisieux: “The Saint by a slip of the pen has written ‘his Divine Mother.’ It is evident that she never revised these last few paragraphs.”
The following quotation is most germane to the Knox translation of HG, used by TCT and thus a source in the NOR article by Dr. Mullan.
On the Holy See: “The (papal) pronouncements are the expression of that (inner) life, and an inadequate expression of it, perhaps particularly so when they are compiled by Italians, with their vice for the superlative . . .” He adds: “Don’t let piety cheat us out of the reflection that Roman documents are always meant to be interpreted in the most liberal sense.”
Certain characteristics of the HG selections now make sense, knowing Knox to be the translator. A quick scan of TCT seems to confirm the Denzinger sources and others to be more faithful to the words and meaning of the Vatican document translations, a contrast made more visible by the left-leaning Knox translation. As noted in the first letter, some of the variances do modify papal meanings, taking Vatican interpretation as the standard. In fact, TCT reads often as though a commentary, not as a translation. At least the true source of the HG translation is now known.
So when does a liberal translation of a Pope’s pronouncement cross over into a commentary with a contrary agenda? Isn’t this but a parallel in current days and terms of the Scriptural debate over literal/liberal interpretation? The answer is simple: no ex cathedra statement of the extraordinary Magisterium should be altered, without a clear declaration that this is being done. Word twists in the HG selections are toward a liberal and suggestive papal intent, rather than the literal and definitive tone seen in the Vatican HG version. Once again, let the reader not just take our opinion but look in the following table to compare some of the variant phrases between the two translations. Recall from the TCT preface cited above the intention that the student be acquainted with dogma of the Church’s authority. The first two rows below indicate by omission that declaring the Church’s authority and authenticity are far from the intent of Msgr. Ronald Knox.
Parallel Phrases from
Humani Generis (HG)
The Church Teaches(Knox)
Teaching Authority of the Church
Teaching of the Church
Interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures
Interpreting the Sacred Scriptures
Ordering to the beatific vision
Equipping for the beatific vision
Reasonable character of the credibility (of Christian faith)
Reasonable process to accept credentials
Necessary seriousness, moderation and measure
All seriousness, fairness and restraint
Defending the dogmas of faith
Safeguarding the doctrines ….
Origin of the human body
Development of the human body
Completely certain and proved
Sufficiently certain to prove
Embrace that opinion
Men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him(Adam)
Men who did not take their origin from him
Limits and safeguards
Modern standard of historical composition
Simple and metaphorical language
Naïve symbolical language
People but little cultured
Certain important truths
Excerpts from current stories
Truth and simplicity
Truth and cult of simplicity
Also of the Old Testament
Even of the Old Testament
In a demonstrably different level
HG 20 is said to be referenced from TCT, yet a diligent search found no trace of this selection in TCT. Perhaps this was taken directly from the Knox translation.
HG 38 has had a long journey to reach its final form; liberally interpreted by Knox, copied by TCT, it is then edited again in the New Oxford Review. This is HG 38 at least twice removed, making it like a second cousin with so many face lifts you can’t recognize him.
DJM: The words “irrefutable evidence” which appear in The Church Teaches are not an unreasonable translation of the words “veracibus documentis”.
“Irrefutable evidence” is not a reasonable translation of “truthful documents.” This is an unacceptable stretch of the meaning of the Pope’s phrase.
DJM: OB regard it as significant that “the phrase does appear in a fundamentalist commentary on HG by a contemporary English vicar.”
In the absence of a stated source, with the subject being Fundamentalism, yes.
DJM: OB claim that because I include the above quotation in my NOR article, I am involved in the practice of “masquerading as a direct quotation from the encyclical.”
It was not claimed, but asked WHY this statement was being presented as though a direct citation (as quotation marks normally denote)
DJM: OB refer to me as using a “butchered and bowdlerized version of an encyclical.” But as any reader may verify, the above quotation is a word-for-word quote from page 65 (para. 141) of The Church Teaches.
1. Since this quotation has been traced to Msgr. Knox, the comment still stands, but a fortiore.
2. The “butchered and bowdlerized version” comment refers to ALL the HG citations, not just the one above.
DJM: … since the Pope actually quotes the words in his encyclical HG, he is in essence making the words of PCBS his own.
The Popes often quote the statements of their nemeses; does citing the opposing views make them dogmatic too? In HG 25, the Pope says:
It is now doubted that human reason, without divine revelation and the help of divine grace, can, by arguments drawn from the created universe, prove the existence of a personal God; it is denied that the world had a beginning…..
These are the Pope’s words summarizing those opinions contradicting Vatican Council decrees.
DJM: OB also criticize me for changing the indefinite article “a” to the definite article “the”: this is also not a serious point.
Agreed. This is a minor point; there are much bigger fish to fry.
DJM: I challenge OB to demonstrate how my abbreviated version is in any meaningful sense a departure from the true meaning of the HG  text.
This is the section that can’t be found in TCT. It omits three negatives, besides dropping whole clauses that qualify the meanings. If there were not enough room on the stone tablets, would God have dropped three of the negatives therein – with no moral impact on the meaning of the Ten Commandments?
It will be left to the reader to compare the two versions. It should be obvious that editing Magisterial documents is as risky as emending Scripture.
DJM: “The unshrinking defense of Holy Scripture however does not require that we should equally uphold ALL OF THE OPINIONS which each of the Fathers or the more recent interpreters have put forth in explaining it; ……”
Point of order, please. The issue under discussion is papal document redaction, not required belief in every Patristic opinion. How is this entry suddenly relevant to passing over papal statements when in conflict with one’s personal moral values?
On the reference to the work of Russell Humphries and Robert Gentry:
1. We only claimed they offer a finite, simpler model than the Big Bang.
2. We are not particularly espousing the details, just applauding the general direction (i.e., consistent with Revelation)
3. The Gentry model is preferred, as it agrees with all astronomical measurements claimed by the Big Bang proponents, but we do offer an enhancement to his model by using the Water above the Firmament as the cosmic boundary.
4. It is duly noted that there was no response to the Gentry Genesis model; in this silence prudence was probably being well exercised.
5. Humphries is quite capable of defending himself: see http://doxacommunications.com/kolbe/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/rh_connpage2.zip and http://doxacommunications.com/kolbe/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/rh_connpage3.zip and http://doxacommunications.com/kolbe/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/rh_letters1.zip. (Webmaster’s note: These links will request you to down load compressed files to your home computer that require some decompression software such as Winzip or Pkzip to open.)
DJM: OB do not say how they interpret the observations of regular patterns of stellar motion due to annual parallax and the aberration of light.
We are happy to explain. The neoTychonian geocentric model is used, in which the Moon and Sun are satellites of Earth, and everything else satellites of the Sun.
A geocentric interpretation of parallax follows:
Let the Earth be lined up with two stars as shown, a NearSpaceObject and a DeepSpaceObject.
If any of these three move off the line, the other two can detect it because two points determine a line. But here’s the rub: If Earth observes NSO to be above DSO, is it due to NSO moving up or DSO moving down or the Earth moving down, or a combination of these three?
The specific claim of the modern acentrists for the observed parallax is shown below for the top three objects. If the Sun is lined up with the NSO and the DSO and is at rest, then the Earth will see the DSO move from above to below the NSO in a six month trip around the Sun.
The three bottom objects show the geocentric view for the Sun’s observed motion around the Earth. The DSO is seen to switch from one side of the NSO to the other, and at the same angle for both, since the distance from Sun to Earth, the Astronomical Unit, is the same for both models.
Since only relative motion with respect to the line can be detected, those who say the Earth moves must explain why it can’t be the stars that move, which is definitely what is seen from Earth. Their reason comes down to assuming that the stars must be at rest, the logical fallacy of begging the question. The stars are observed, without instruments, to rotate every night and with instruments, the galaxies are observed to have disparate radial velocities that may be a fair percent of the speed of light. Yet it is the modernist claim that it’s the Earth that’s moving and the stars and galaxies that are at rest – in fact all of them!
Notwithstanding this rejection of conventional naturalism, the geocentrist would still be agnostic on which motion is true, had it not been revealed. It is the Word of God that tips the scales, since the plain sense of Scripture indicates that the Earth is at rest.
Permit us to offer a refutation of conventional stellar aberration:
The argument conditions to prove the Earth moves around the Sun at 30 km./sec are that the Sun and all the stars are at rest, an immediate contradiction. We are free in relativity to pick one frame of reference to be at rest – the Sun – but no freedom to also impose that condition independently on third party objects – the stars – without supporting evidence. The evidence is to the contrary. The stars are moving toward and away from the Sun and Earth at various speeds, as attested to by their assorted blue and red shifts. So the initial conditions are contrary to fact for aberration from a moving Earth. Contradictory premises are also found in the theory of star formation, which starts with particles somehow converging toward each other while gravity is being continuously diluted by the divergence of the same particles as they participate in the alleged universal Big Bang expansion.
In 1871 Airy re-measured the angle of aberration of light using a telescope filled with water, instead of air as Bradley did, and he found “it will be seen that if the velocity of the light with respect to the solar system be made less by entering the water, one would expect the angle of aberration to be increased… Actually the most careful measurements gave the same angle of aberration for a telescope filled with water as for one filled with air.” If we are indeed on the move, then stellar aberration observed through water will be greater than that observed through air. Therefore, in case we do not observe this increase, the Earth is at rest and the starry dome is revolving relative to us.
DJM: Astronomers have been measuring these now for 2-3 centuries, and both of them are signs of Earth’s orbital motion.
Not the interpretation of all astronomers – just the demagogues of modernism and their docile disciples. Once again, according to astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle : “We know that the difference between a heliocentric theory and a geocentric theory is one of relative motion only, and that such a difference has no physical significance.” Eccentric rather than geocentric, but certainly no technical slouch – Hoyle was a Fellow of the Royal Society, knighted and made chief astronomer to Her Majesty. His awards include the Royal Medal of the Royal Society and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.
- If the Earth were always in motion and not relatively so, then the stars would be a preferred frame of reference, contrary to relativity.
- Saying the stars are at rest really means that their distance is so great that we can’t tell if they are moving with respect to each other. But then the definition of rest will depend on the resolution of the viewing device, which in turn is technology dependent – the relative motion will always be unknown, as it is today.
- The stars are all observed to have Doppler shifts, yet they are all presumed at rest.
- The stars all participate in the Big Bang divergence, yet they are all assumed to be at rest.
The use of the stars as a rest frame thus has (at least) four problems:
- violation of relativity from several perspectives,
- a nebulous definition that is unfalsifiable (also a key feature of bio-evolution) and
- contradiction of both the experimental motion detected by the Doppler red shifts and
- the hypothetical Big Bang scenario of universal stellar expansion.
DJM: Nor do OB mention how they interpret what the twelve astronauts saw when they stood on the Moon and looked back at Earth: the Earth was not stationary, but was rotating about its axis before their very eyes.
This is a surprising objection; it isn’t cited in the usual geocentric counter arguments – for good reason. Of course the astronauts saw the apparent spin of the Earth from their own moving satellite, as there is relative motion between Earth and Moon, the orbital motion of the Moon around the stationary Earth. This would also be the same rotation seen from the Moon’s barycenter, demonstrating that the Earth’s virtual spin is but an artifact of the Moon’s revolution.
Here is a visual parable for the reader:
Children spinning on a playground merry-go-round wave to their parents at the center. The kids see the parents appear to rotate as they circle them so they can only wave when they make eye contact, face to face. Replace the kids with the lunar astronauts and the parents with the Earth to interpret what the astronauts saw.
A question for the good Doctor would be – why didn’t the lunar astronauts observe an Earth rotating every 24 hours, if that’s the alleged rate of spin? To answer this question you have to break out of the mental box of modernity.
DJM: Why should people believe that the “Earth is the focus of physical creation,” based on what Robert Bellarmine said 400 years ago. As if being a saint and a cardinal confers infallibility concerning the physical world.
Our belief is not primarily a response to the cardinal’s spiritual or clerical status, which includes his office as chief theologian to the Holy See (Pope Urban VIII) and patron saint of catechists, but to his defense of Magisterial authority for interpretation of Scripture, including the cosmic view of the Earth, a view which only the Creator can provide. In his letter to Fr. Foscarini, St. Cardinal Bellarmine said:
….it seems to us that the sun moves (while the earth does not), just as to someone who moves away from the seashore on a ship it looks like the shore is moving. I shall answer that when someone moves away from the shore, although it appears to him that the shore is moving away from him, nevertheless he knows that this is an error and corrects it, seeing clearly that the ship moves and not the shore; but in regard to the sun and the earth, no scientist has any need to correct the error, since he clearly experiences that the earth stands still and that the eye is not in error when it judges that the sun moves, as it also is not in error when it judges that the moon and the stars move.
At the same time, we cannot help asking if NOT being a saint and a cardinal confers infallibility concerning the physical world!
DJM: In choosing to espouse beliefs such as the fixity of the Earth at the center of the Universe, the Kolbe Center runs the risk of making itself a laughing stock in the eyes of reasonable people.
It is written in Psalm 74:22,
“Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long.”
and in 1 Corinthians 4:10,
“We are fools for Christ’s sake….” ”
As some of us stand praying before abortion clinics, we are also subject to verbal abuse and mockery, but this is of no concern to us. The Lord predicted this would be so, even as the world mocked Him. We have no fear of speaking the truth to reasonable people, as God gives us to know his Truth.
DJM: how many people does the Kolbe Center think it can convince that the Sun is not the principal body which controls the motion of bodies in the solar system?
This is either a change of subject, or a false interpretation of geocentrism.
- In the neo-Tychonian model the Sun is the focus of all celestial object motions except for Earth and Moon. Earth is fixed at the center as revealed, with Moon and Sun its satellites.
- Which exerts a greater force of gravitational attraction according to Newton, the Earth on the Sun or the Sun on the Earth?
- Is the Sun the principal cause of the Moon’s motion?
- Geocentrism replaces the cosmological principle with the geocentric principle – Earth immobile at the center of a finite universe. If desired, this can be sugar coated for secular colleagues by dropping the religious source, although that’s wherein its truth lies. The scientific method says then look for differences observed between geocentric and heliocentric (?) or acentric (?) models.
DJM: I stand by my claim that a correct interpretation of these points (in the sense of being consistent with the laws of physics) does not at all point towards a young Earth.
We agree that a modernist interpretation is consistent with the laws of materialistic physics. We in turn claim that an objective interpretation of scientific facts, open to immaterial sources of knowledge and testable first principles, points to a young Earth.
In the public’s mind there is the vision of an ideal paragon – the objective scientist of the past. Unlike the rest of humanity, he is unmotivated by greed and ego and power. Thomas Gold reflected on his admittedly naive view of such an abstracted persona.
I will start very naively by a definition of what a scientist is. He is a person who will judge a matter purely by its scientific merits. His judgment will be unaffected by the evaluation that he makes or the judgment that others would make. He will be unaffected by the historical evaluation of the subject. His judgment will depend only on the evidence as it stands at the present time. The way in which this came about is irrelevant for the scientific judgment; it is what we now know today that should determine his judgment. His judgment is unaffected by the perception of how it will received by his peers and unaffected by how it will influence his standing, his financial position, his promotion – any of these personal matters. If the evidence appears to him to allow several different interpretations at that time, he will carry each on of those in his mind, and as new evidence comes along, he will submit each new item of evidence to each of the possible interpretations, until a definitive decision can be made. That is my naive definition of a scientist.”
Dr. Thomas Gold
Fellow, Royal Society (London)
Some extend this view to include a libertarian sense of scientific freedom in the quixotic quest for truth:
There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, Life, October 10, 1949.
But these idealistic goals can lead some to arrogance and a pathetic score at prophecy:
The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote…. Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.
Albert Abraham Michelson, University of Chicago, 1894
It’s interesting that the Arts picked up on this hubris of the Sciences, with comments such as:
- There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
- Mark Twain
A man receives only what he is ready to receive. . . . The phenomenon or fact that cannot in any wise be linked with the rest of what he has observed, he does not observe.
Henry D. Thoreau
It is really quite amazing by what margins competent but conservative scientists and engineers can miss the mark, when they start with the preconceived idea that what they are investigating is impossible. When this happens, the most well-informed men become blinded by their prejudices and are unable to see what lies directly ahead of them.
Arthur C. Clarke
Some scientists acknowledged their shortfalls, and others objectively demonstrated it.
Trouble comes, however, when what we think to be knowledge is actually no more than illusion. Education then serves to transmit illusions from generation to generation, with the situation getting worse all the time. ..wrong ideas eventually become so deeply entrenched as to become unshakeable dogma.
Fred Hoyle & Chandra Wickramasinghe
- One study found that the vast majority of scientists drawn from a national sample showed a strong preference for “confirmatory” experiments. Over half of these scientists did not even recognize disconfirmation (modus tollens) as a valid reasoning form! In another study the logical reasoning skills of 30 scientists were compared to those of 15 relatively uneducated Protestant ministers. Where there were performance differences, they tended to favor the ministers. Confirmatory bias was prevalent in both groups, but the ministers used disconfirmatory logic almost twice as often as the scientists did.
- Michael J. Mahoney, “Publication Prejudices: An Experimental Study of Confirmatory Bias in the Peer Review System,” Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1977, pp. 161-175.
Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little.
Mathematics, the queen of the sciences, has often been misused as a means of intimidation to promote scientific speculation. It is an indispensable and powerful tool when validly applied to a real world experience. But too often all the causes of a physical phenomenon are unknown, or the side effects of known causes are unknown. So it’s inappropriate and potentially dangerous to trust deductions arising purely from the abstract model of mathematics. The problem is that mathematicians now dominate physics and it is fashionable for them to follow Einstein’s example of creative mathematical manipulation, with fame and fortune going to those with the most fantastic notions that defy experience and common sense. The mix of science fiction and fact in modern research has lead to an inversion of the scientific method. Proof lies not in experimentation but in the cleverness and collegial clout of the conjurers. Speculations such as the Big Bang, dark matter, black holes, cosmic strings, wormholes in space, time travel and multiple universes have driven the practical minded from the pursuit of physics and led to a questioning of all modern results and claims.
It is usually taken for granted that the processes of mathematics are identical with the processes of reasoning, whereas they are quite different. The mathematician is more akin to a spider than to a civil engineer, to a chess player than to one endowed with exceptional critical power. The faculty by which a chess expert intuitively sees the possibilities that lie in a particular configuration of pieces on the board is paralleled by that which shows the mathematician the much more general possibilities latent in an array of symbols. He proceeds automatically and faultlessly to bring them to light, but his subsequent correlation of his symbols with facts of experience, which has nothing to do with his special gift, is anything but faultless, and is only too often of the same nature as Lewis Carroll’s correlation of his pieces with the Red Knight and the White Queen – with the difference whereas Dodgson recognised the products of his imagination to be wholly fanciful, the modern mathematician imagines, and persuades others, that he is discovering the secrets of nature.
The high standards of proof and openness to alternate theories of the pre-modern scientists has given way to a complete reversal of the role of science and theology in the modernist milieu of today.
It is ironic that, in the very field in which Science has claimed superiority to Theology, for example – in the abandoning of dogma and the granting of absolute freedom to criticism – the positions are now reversed. Science will not tolerate criticism of special relativity, while Theology talks freely about the death of God, religionless Christianity, and so on.
Herbert Dingle, Science at the Crossroads, 1972
With regard to prior e-mail exchanges between us, there’s no sense dragging these private communications in now; it would only puzzle the readers. So let us conclude by restating several important parts of our critique that were ignored in the rebuttal. First we would like to recall His Holiness Pope Leo XIII to the witness stand to remind us that:
It need not be pointed out how the nature of science, just as it is so admirably adapted to show forth the glory of the Great Creator, provided it be taught as it should be, so if it be perversely imparted to the youthful intelligence, it may prove most fatal in destroying the principles of true philosophy and in the corruption of morality….
There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, “not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.”
These detestable errors, whereby they think they destroy the truth of the divine Books, are obtruded on the world as the peremptory pronouncements of a certain newly-invented “free science;” a science, however, which is so far from final that they are perpetually modifying and supplementing it.
Unfortunately, the warning contained in this passage does not appear to have been heeded by the Catholic champions of long ages of time. Instead, they seem to have placed as much mistaken confidence in the ability of the natural sciences to arrive at “irrefutable” conclusions about unrepeatable events, such as creation, as in the ability of empirical science to form “irrefutable” conclusions about repeatable events. This is a serious philosophical error.
We repeat: It is quite impossible for natural science to produce irrefutable proof of the nature of creation and the age of the universe, first, because, as God reminded Job, we were not there when He created the universe, second, because we cannot be at all sure that the uniformitarian principle – which states that all presently observed natural processes have always been in operation exactly as they are today – is true; and, finally, because even the so-called “laws” that govern the present day universe are subject to change in light of new evidence. For example, the original article claims that “Newton’s laws are examples of irrefutable evidence.” Actually, Newton’s laws are sufficient for the study of simple “every day” systems dealing with low speeds, weak gravity and macroscopic objects. For moderate systems they are incomplete approximations and virtually worthless for extremal systems.
The indemonstrable uniformitarian principle underlies most if not all of the alleged “irrefutable proofs” for long ages of time since the beginning of creation. However, the article itself states that the physical processes that Adam and Eve experienced prior to the Fall were different from the physical processes that we now experience in the post Fall world. Since this is so, might not physical processes in the earth and in the stars also have varied since the beginning of creation? In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul (another exegete with a penchant for the literal historical interpretation of Genesis) teaches that not only human beings but all creation is made subject to decay by the Original Sin and groans in expectation of the revelation of the children of God.
Although St. Paul’s words do not mean that the Second law of Thermodynamics did not come into force until after the Fall – a false view that some evolutionists like to attribute to defenders of special creation – they do indicate that God allowed decay to accelerate throughout the universe in some way as a result of the Fall. Indeed, there are many phenomena, such as polonium radiohalos, decay of the earth’s magnetic field, and helium retention in zircons from deep earth cores, that are impossible to explain within a giga year framework using the uniformitarian principle. Moreover, the experimental work of sedimentologist Guy Berthault has demonstrated that the earth’s fossil bearing rocks could have been laid down in a relatively short period of time, a mere fraction of the hundreds of millions of years generally assigned to the formation of the fossil record. His work alone would be sufficient to demolish any claims to “irrefutable proof” of an age for the earth of hundreds of millions of years.
Besides citing “irrefutable proof” in the form of widely accepted interpretations of data among physicists, the original article argued that God would not have deceived mankind by creating a world with an appearance of age that it did not really possess. In this connection, the article mentioned that Adam and Eve would not have “aged” as we experience aging, prior to the Fall. While a true statement, this begs the question of whether Adam and Eve were created with the appearance of age. No evidence is offered that our first parents were not created fully mature and with an appearance of age that they did not actually possess. Furthermore, the argument is drawn that the irreducible complexity of living things refutes Darwinian evolution through natural selection, but what is not drawn is the logical conclusion that the prototypes of the various kinds of living things must have been created irreducibly complex, fully functioning, with an appearance of age that they did not actually possess.
It is a crowning irony that defenders of special creation are accused of misrepresenting God as a deceiver who gives things a false appearance of age when God Himself has told us in his own words that He created the heavens and earth and all they contain in six days. The 1994 Catechism teaches that:
The word “Decalogue” means literally “ten words.” God revealed these “ten words” to his people on the holy mountain. They were written “with the finger of God,” (Exodus 31:18) unlike the other commandments written by Moses. They are pre-eminently the words of God (emphasis added) (CCC 2056).
In these words written “with the finger of God,” God tells Moses and the Hebrews that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested.” Thus, no one can accuse God of deceiving us if the world is full of a number of things that look much older than they really are!
The original article claims that deriving the earth’s age from the patriarchal genealogies is not taught by the Magisterium. This is true, of course, but neither is it forbidden – it’s an open question, a detail related to the general open discussion now being debated by scientists and theologians with regard to the Church’s position on evolution. Moreover, by the criteria laid down by Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus and upheld by Pope Pius XII and the Second Vatican Council, the literal and obvious sense of the genealogies as intended by their authors must be accepted unless there is irrefutable proof that they cannot possibly be true. Indeed, Pope Pius XII strongly condemned the now alarmingly – popular view that the Bible contains errors in natural science and history. In Divino Afflante Spiritu, Pius wrote:
When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the “entire books with all their parts” as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as “obiter dicta” and, as they contended, in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the encyclical letter Providentissimus Deus…justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the divine books by most wise precepts and rules (Para 1, ).
The 1994 Catechism reminds us that the literal sense is the basis for all other interpretations of Scripture and that this sense can only be interpreted correctly if the reader is “attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm” (CCC, 109). To the chagrin of critics of the literal historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11, modern scholarship has merely underscored the intentions of the author(s) of Genesis to give an historical account of the early history of the earth and of mankind. According to James Barr, Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University, there is no longer any doubt among scholars that the author(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey historical facts to their readers:
So far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world class university who does not believe that the author(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that,
Creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience.
The figures contained in the Genesis chronologies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story
Noah’s flood was understood to be world wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the Ark
Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.
The Second Vatican Council Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching that “the interpreter of the Sacred Scriptures, if he is to ascertain what God has wished to communicate to us, should carefully search out the meaning which the sacred writers really had in mind, that meaning which God had thought well to manifest through the medium of their words” (Dei Verbum, 12, Austin Flannery translation, Vatican Council II, Vol. I, (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1992), p. 757). This precisely accurate translation of the original Latin rules out any divergence between the intention of the sacred author(s) of Genesis 1-11 and the intention of the Holy Spirit. In the light of this truth, and in the absence of any overwhelming evidence for long ages of time, the plain sense of Genesis 1-11, as clearly intended by the sacred author(s), still deserves to be the preferred interpretation for Catholics.
Dr. Robert Bennett
Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation
July 29, 2003