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Conversation with William Dembski on Intelligent Design

William Dembski

On November 14, 2003 Ed Babinski wrote:
Subject: EVO-DEVO, Dr. Gilbert, “Teaching Evolution Through Development”

Edward: Thanks very much Dr. Gilbert. Your online lecture raises intriguing points, and it was very recently posted, so it is “news” worth sharing, especially the many examples you provide of organisms that share the same basic developmental genes and how those genes have kept getting reused and changed only slightly in each case. Hence, not a lot of “mutation” is required to produce large scale changes, even to turn feathers to scales, as you point out below. And eyes need not have evolved over 40 times separately, since the same hox gene that induces eye formation is found in those species. Ultimately such studies might also unveil how little had to be changed in the genes of early primates in order to produce man. Or, as you state in the conclusion of your lecture:

“Many critics pointed out that population genetics cannot directly explain macroevolution. But when you add developmental genetics to the theory, you have a wonderfully robust mix that can explain evolution both within species and in higher taxa. It turns out that we humans are closer to other animals than we thought, and that the mechanisms by which the living world is generated are highly conserved.”

“Scott Gilbert”: Dear Ed,
Thanks for your kind note. My lecture can be found online at Developmental Biology
[Scott Gilbertʼs lecture at the Society for Developmental Biology meeting, Madison, 2002, titled, “Teaching Evolution Through Development.” First posted: Nov 07, 2003]
I enjoyed your website on why we believe in a Designer. Years ago, when I told my wife about Intelligent Design, she laughed. She is an obstetrician/gynecologist. They donʼt particularly believe in the “perfection” of design.

[Edʼs comment: I know of one female creationist with an anthropology degree, so Iʼm sure there are female I.D.ists with advanced degrees. But the exact meaning of “perfection” in any particular instance of nature remains elusive because invoking the word, “perfection,” leaves you wondering, “perfect” compared with how many other possible designs?]

Best wishes!
Scott

On November 17, 2003, Edward Babinski wrote:
Subject: Re: EVO-DEVO, Dr. Gilbert, “Teaching Evolution Through Development”

Dear Dr. Dembski,

Wow! Thank you very much for your generous and timely response!

Just a few comments. I am unaware of any “state of crisis” as my I.D.ist friends claim exists. If there is any “state of crisis” isnʼt it on the side of those who claim that invisible entities are micro-managing nature over billions of years of death and suffering and extinctions? (Doesnʼt sound like a highly impressive “micro manager,” I mean, “perfecting” so many species only for them to become extinct over and over again.)

Hereʼs a question I have, based on three examples from nature:

  1. The Bedbug—The male bedbug has a penis that penetrates the females abdomen in a traumatic act, but hereʼs the point I want to raise, only a single species of bedbug is known to have evolved to the point that males of that species penetrate the abdomens of other males while the first male is inseminating a female.
  2. The Bombardier beetle—Only one species of “bombardier” beetle has a moving turret to direct its spray, the rest can only spray in one direction, usually covering their own backs, and other species of beetles have similar overall anatomies but without spraying anything.
  3. Home Sapiens Sapiens—There is only one surviving species of human being but many primitive extinct primates, and loads of extinct hominid species. Based on such examples, my question is why does specialization in the cases I have cited, always leave behind so MANY less highly “specialized” species for the very few highly specialized species? If a Designer is micromanaging the specialization, then why leave the majority of creatures “behind” as it were? Isnʼt that more a prediction of evolution than “design?” To put it other ways: Why should a Designer require two to three billion years to move from the earliest known single-celled creature to the first multi-cellular creatures? Why does a Designer require six million years to produce human beings and also have to leave behind so many extinct primate species and then extinct hominid species in the process?

And what do you believe is left of the truth of Genesis according to your I.D. view? Is there a definitive I.D. commentary on Genesis? Why not? Are Godʼs words less sure of interpretation than science is? I mean I.D. says it knows “the” truth about science, but it canʼt agree on an interpretation of Genesis even though “Scripture is given of God and not of private interpretation,” and, “the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth?” Well, whereʼs the “truth” in Genesis that all the theists can plainly read? If it is just some general truth that canʼt even distinguish between helio or geo-centrism (there are geocentrist creationist Bible believers who can point to verses that certainly seem to me to assume a geocentric cosmos). Or if God canʼt even speak so plain as to tell us if creation is thousands or billions of years old. Or if God canʼt speak so plainly as to tell us whether various species popped into existence instantaneously, or whether they came from each otherʼs wombs after individual micro-mutations, then Iʼd say there is nothing much that Genesis can honestly tell us, no more than any other ancient creation account found in any other religion, and therefore, Biblical interpretation is “in a state of crisis,” not science.

On November 17, 2003, Edward Babinski wrote:
Subject: Re: EVO-DEVO, Dr. Gilbert, “Teaching Evolution Through Development”

“William A. Dembski” writes:
Comments interspersed.

Edward: Mine also. *smile* Thanks again for maintaining the correspondence. I am supposing that is Paulʼs email address above? I hadnʼt spoken with him in months, though we used to speak quite regularly for weeks on end, neither were there any hard feelings between either of us. He even published something I wrote at the ARN site, a small edited portion of something I wrote. Paul and I simply lost touch at one point. You can ask him about it and what we discussed. (My further responses appear interspersed below.)

11/17/2003, Edward Babinski wrote:
Dear Dr. Dembski,
Wow! Thank you very much for your generous and timely response!
Just a few comments. I am unaware of any “state of crisis” as my I.D.ist friends claim exists. If there is any “state of crisis” isnʼt it on the side of those who claim that invisible entities are micro-managing nature over billions of years of death and suffering and extinctions? (Doesnʼt sound like a highly impressive “micro manager,” I mean, “perfecting” so many species only for them to become extinct over and over again.)
One thing at a time. You sent me something about evo-devo, claiming that it closes the macroevolutionary gap. It doesnʼt.

Edward: Pardon, but it does close various evolutionary gaps. Instead of the genes that induce eyes having to evolve entirely separately 40 different times we have the same gene that induces eye development (conserved in all of those species, which evolutionists assume are descended from a common ancestor), and able to induce eye development in all of those species. So instead of many genes, a few hox-like genes are found to be major directors that facilitate some relatively broad changes like fins to feet, scales to feathers, and, they even decide whether there is no invagination of the skin and forming of an eye cup—or—the skin invaginates and forms an eye cup in the head region. In fact, that is exactly the sort of evidence that evolutionary geneticists have been seeking right along, ways to consolidate various major changes in broad ranges of diverse species via fewer shared genes and fewer genetic mutations.

Conversely, keep in mind that there is no “gap” at all in I.D., since miracles—from the tiniest micromutations to the instantaneous creation of whole new organisms and their habitats—explain both anything and everything.
*smile*

Whatʼs more, just because you and Scott donʼt recognize the crisis doesnʼt mean there isnʼt one. I expect that those who knew the Titanic was unsinkable were convinced there was no crisis until they actually saw the ship going down. Of course, the actual crisis ensued once the Titanic hit the iceberg.

Edward: Whose ship is taking on water is a moot point between us, so why waste your breath on a wry “Titanic” analogy more suitable for the pulpit than a scientific discussion?
One quotation that I ran across on my own is this one: “[Richard] Owen [the famed anatomist] says my book will be forgotten in ten years, perhaps so; but, with such a [short but prestigious] list [of scientific supporters], I feel convinced that the subject will not.” [Darwin in a letter to J. D. Hooker, 3/3/1860].

Speaking of my own view, I think the “fine-tuning hypothesis” raises more challenging questions than the “I.D. hypothesis.” See for instance:

The “Fine Tuners” Challenge the “Intelligent Design” Movement Fine Tuners acknowledge that accident may not be the best way to explain the whole cosmos. They also find that the Intelligent Design movement embraces faulty simplistic arguments and proofs.
The Fine-Tuning Hypothesis, an alternative to the Intelligent Design Hypothesis

As for God micromanaging nature, thatʼs a convenient caricature.
Precisely because God allows a world to unfold in freedom,

Edward: “Unfold in freedom” is an intriguing phrase. Please explain what kind of changes organisms “free” to engage in, and on what biological levels if you can say. Surely there are Christians like Miller and Denis Lameroux (sp?) who are biologists who can use the same phrase you do to express their belief that natural selection allows nature to “unfold in freedom.”

no micromanaging is required

Edward: Please elucidate. Are you saying that you believe that the very first cell was pre-programmed to “unfold” on its own into all subsequent life on earth? That there was no miraculous genetic tinkering, nothing being added or subtracted (in micro-managerial fashion) at later geological periods? If that is what you are saying, please let me know, and we could discuss that particular hypothesis. I believe Behe suggested that idea off the cuff in his first book, but now has doubts concerning it. I mean, just how much genetic information would the very first cell have to have? The earliest known organisms in the fossil record were merely bacteria! Tiny things, with tiny nucleusʼ compared with the Eukaryotes that appeared later. So it canʼt be a case of a bacterium with a nucleus that is many times the cellʼs bacterial-size, a nucleus that is merely whittled down over the geological eons, the has to keep splitting off to form hundreds of millions of unique species that must have existed over the eons. The “whittling down of a super nucleus” hypothesis appears dead in the water. But then we are left with a hypothesis in which we both agree, namely that a simple cell, as simple as a bacterium can evolve into super sized Eukarotes and billions of diverse species each with their own unique habitats and behaviors. And that would certainly imply evolution in my book, rather than I.D. So if you are trying to reduce the I.D. question down to the question of merely “abiogenesis,” and the “first cell,” you certainly appear to be more evolutionist than anything else. Especially since that would make Darwin and I.D.ist by such a definition! Just read the last paragraph of The Origin.

and a history of death, suffering, and extinction becomes compatible with a world that exhibits design (which is not to say that every aspect is designed). You seem wedded to a naive theology and stuck on the theodicy problem.

Edward: As I pointed out above, there are no “gaps” when miracles are invoked to explain things, even death, suffering, extinction, are all explainable, as are things that you say were “not designed,” though could you please give me a list of things in nature that are “not designed” so I can ascertain exactly what you mean by that phrase, and compare it with a list of things in nature that you are sure are “designed?”

Hereʼs a question I have, based on three examples from nature:
  1. The Bedbug—The male bedbug has a penis that penetrates the females abdomen in a traumatic act, but hereʼs the point I want to raise, only a single species of bedbug is known to have evolved to the point that males of that species penetrate the abdomens of other males while the first male is inseminating a female.
  2. The Bombardier Beetle—Only one species of “bombardier” beetle has a moving turret to direct its spray, the rest can only spray in one direction, usually covering their own backs, and other species of beetles have similar overall anatomies but without spraying anything.
  3. Homo Sapiens Sapiens—There is only one surviving species of human being but many primitive extinct primates, and loads of extinct hominid species. Based on such examples, my question is why does specialization in the cases I have cited, always leave behind so many less highly “specialized” species for the very few highly specialized species? If a Designer is micromanaging the specialization, then why leave the majority of creatures “behind” as it were? Isnʼt that more a prediction of evolution than “design?” To put it other ways: Why should a Designer require two to three billion years to move from the earliest known single-celled creature to the first multi-cellular creatures? Why does a Designer require six million years to produce human beings and also have to leave behind so many extinct primate species and then extinct hominid species in the process?
See last point. The theodicy question is separate from the design question, and you donʼt resolve the design question by saying that any putative designer wouldnʼt have done it that way. Now if you want to talk theodicy, Iʼm happy to do so, but again, thatʼs not why you wrote me and thatʼs not what the chapter draft I sent you was about.

Edward: You misunderstood my question. It was not a question of “Theodicy,” it was a question of probabilities. Evolution predicts that specialization is a process over time, and that not all organisms achieve it, in fact it predicts that few achieve it, just as in the case of bacteria that develop resistance to antibiotics or insects that develop resistance to pesticides, only a few mutate to the point of specialization that allows them to adapt and survive in large numbers in such an environment, while the majority of organisms do not specialize as rapidly or as completely, and die out. As I said, only a single known species of bed bug rapes other males, and, only a single known species of the suborder of beetles known as Adephaga, has a movable turret to point the chemicals that shoot out of it, and, only a single know species of primate, and then only a single known species of hominid, evolved into homo sapiens. That is what evolution predicts, it certainly fits evolution. But according to I.D. the possible scenarios for “designing” the living world seem endless instead of this whittling down process that the geological records actually reveals.

Take birds. They are preceded by feathered dinosaurs. And then by feathered gliding dinosaurs with long boney tails that create drag, heavier skeletons, reptilian-shaped triangular skulls, teeth and non-hollow bones that added weight, small keel bones instead of the massive keel bones found in modern birds that attach the flight muscles. In short, the early birds are clearly not as designed for flight, nor as highly specialized for it as modern species are. In fact only one species of bird can fly backwards, the hummingbird, a late arrival on the geological scene. Again, such a progression is one that evolution predicts, it fits evolution.

Take cetaceans, early whales were clearly not as highly specialized as modern day species. Early whales displayed earbones only partially-specialized for under water hearing. Early whales had nares at the tips of their snouts or later in the middle of their snouts, the nares didnʼt reach the top of their heads until later. Early cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) apparently shared the same ancestors, because the fossil record shows relatively smaller cetaceans early on, and only later did some species advance in size until we see the modern day Blue Whale as the largest organism ever to live on the planet (with the possible exception of some dinosaurian gigantosaurus). Neither did early cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) have the sonar apparatus found in most modern day species. Again, such a progression is one that evolution predicts, and which was borne out by the findings of paleontology.

As I said, yes, it is possible that I.D. or any hypothesis that invokes miracles could also explain such evidence—i.e., From non-specialized to highly specialized—From the many unspecialized to the few highly specialized—in order in the fossil record. But evolution is a more constrained and demanding hypothesis. So it seems that I.D. is going along with this evidence simply because it must, not because I.D. predicted it. (I.D. or some other varieties of miraculous explanations could have predicted things a zillion other ways.)

And what do you believe is left of the truth of Genesis according to your I.D. view? Is there a definitive I.D. commentary on Genesis? Why not? Are Godʼs words less sure of interpretation than science is? I mean I.D. says it knows “the” truth about science, but it canʼt agree on an interpretation of Genesis even though “Scripture is given of God and not of private interpretation,” and, “the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth?” Well, whereʼs the “truth” in Genesis that all the theists can plainly read? If it is just some general truth that canʼt even distinguish between helio or geo-centrism (there are geocentrist creationist Bible believers who can point to verses that certainly seem to me to assume a geocentric cosmos). Or if God canʼt even speak so plain as to tell us if creation is thousands or billions of years old. Or if God canʼt speak so plainly as to tell us whether various species popped into existence instantaneously, or whether they came from each otherʼs wombs after individual micro-mutations, then Iʼd say there is nothing much that Genesis can honestly tell us, no more than any other ancient creation account found in any other religion, and therefore, Biblical interpretation is “in a state of crisis,” not science.
You seem bitter about your YEC experience.

Edward: You ignore the question of Biblical interpretation that I raised, above, and you ignore questions concerning which of various hypothesis is more obviously in “a state of crisis?” (your phrase, not mine). Sidestepping such questions with a question concerning oneʼs psychology? Isnʼt that nearer to being a preacherʼs tool than a scientific or mathematical argument? I find that people who use the “bitterness” argument are arguing _ad “bitter” hominem_ if I may coin a phrase. In my eyes I have been reasonable throughout my intellectual journey, as I am willing to grant that your journey also appears so in your eyes. (But if you wish people to respond for you tit for tat, then I might have written that you seem “bitter” about evolution, describing it as the “sinking of the Titanic” and “in a state of crisis.” *smile*)

I suppose thatʼs understandable.

Edward: As is your psyche to me. *smile*

And perhaps your skeptic friends are providing you with the intellectual enrichment that you didnʼt find as a YEcreationist. But given your undue preoccupation with your YEC past, it seems you havenʼt fully resolved this aspect of your life (perhaps Leaving the Fold is helping in this regard). Iʼm planning a book on Genesis, Creation, and Theodicy in which I have some new angles on how suffering that results from an evolutionary history could in turn be the result of a space-time fall of humanity (the key is appealing to Newcombʼs paradox).

Edward: More ad hoc explanations simply to try and reconcile the Bible and Science? How exactly is your ad hoc hypothesis going to differ from Humphries latest YEC ad hoc hypothesis that maybe the earth was at the center of a white hole at creation and the cosmos as well as time and space itself got stretched out in “days,” thus leading to the mere “appearance” of an “old” cosmos stretched out in billions of “light-years?” Humphries “white hole” hypothesis is typically worthless, even moreso than the famed creationist and I.D. rebuffs of “natural selection” being a pure tautology. What could be more purely tautological than arguments like Humphries or like the one you are currently devising above?

On the other hand, I suppose thatʼs how theology “works.” I mean if the act of one man suffering the pain of nails being driven through his palms two thousand years ago, can make another man living today a “saint” in Godʼs eyes (after death), THEN, “Adam and Eve” eating a bit of fruit can be cited as the reason why millions of species suffered for millions of years before Adam and Eve popped out of an Australopithecusʼs womb. (Speaking of Adam and Eve, I saw a book recently here in the college library where I work which stated that geneticists have discovered a genetic basis for “Adam,” a genetic-bottleneck back in time, a single individual or very small group of related individuals, from whom all of the genes of our species is descend, as well as having already discovered a genetic basis for something close to “Eve” though not a single individual. One little problem, as mentioned in the book, is that thereʼs at least 30,000 years worth of generations of descendants between the genetic “Adam” and the genetic “Eve.”)

Christian theological explanations appear to be growing increasingly more weird as science progresses and theologians seek to accommodate both the notion of some “history” in Genesis and the evidence coming to light from science. (But so far the explanations Iʼve read do not appear as weird to me as the fact that there isnʼt a verse in the Bible that isnʼt compatible with the ancient flat earth view that was prominent in the ancient Near East when both Testaments were written. All attempts to make the Bible sound “scientific” regarding modern cosmology are ad hoc, and based on ignoring the fact that historically speaking there is no necessity to even attempt to make the Bible sound scientific. Come on a talking snake that was “wiser than all the creatures of the field that the Lord had made?” “Fruit of a tree of eternal life,” just one bite and you lived forever? How literally is anyone supposed to take such stories? Creatures formed directly from the dust of the earth, and to that dust they shall return?)

There is nothing even remotely requiring a “scientific” explanation in the Genesis account of creation. Here are some excerpts from a new work, that like you, I am in process of composing:

Did God “gab” the world into being? Did His glossolalia fill the void? Or might not creation by the “word” of God be merely a poetic description of how God “called” the cosmos into being? But if one can accept that the description of God “speaking,” and the record of His alleged “words” is poetry, then what does that suggest about how the rest of the creation account in Genesis should be viewed?
- E.T.B.


The Book of Exodus in the Bible states:

In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
- Exodus 31:17

According to learned editors of a Bible published in 1774, the true meaning of the Hebrew is, “on the seventh day He rested, and fetched his breath.” So, God is depicted as panting after over-exerting Himself? What a pretty piece of anthropomorphism.
- E.T.B.


In the Beginning there was Earth, Wind, and Fire?

All ancient “recipes for creation” begin with a few simple ingredients like “earth, wind, fire/light, darkness/night, and water.” According to ancient Egyptian tales of creation, nothing existed in the beginning except a waste of “waters,” also known as “the deep.” Greek tales speak of “earth, murky night, briny deep.” Babylonian tales speak of “waters.” One Sumerian tale spoke not of water, but of another basic ingredient, a mountain of “earth” that existed in the beginning. Phoenician/Canaanite tales speak of “the beginning of all things” as “a windy air and a black chaos which embraced the air and generated a watery mixture, and from this sprang all the seed of creation.” The Hebrew tale in the book of Genesis has the “spirit of God” (the literal Hebrew word for “spirit” also meant “wind or breath”) moving on the surface of “waters” in “darkness,” with “light” and “earth” to follow.

Neither does it appear to be a mystery why the same simple ingredients would appear in so many ancient tales of creation. The pre-scientific authors of such tales imagined that “earth, wind, fire, and water” constituted the “elements” of creation.

Abracadabra: the magic of the creatorʼs “word”

Many ancient tales of creation, not just the Hebrew one, attributed supernatural power to a godʼs “word,” i.e., simply “say the magic word” and things instantly appear, disappear, or are transformed. According to the Egyptian Book of the Dead every act of creation represented a thought of Temu and its expression in “words.” A host of Egyptian creation myths agreed that the agency of creation was the godʼs “word.” The pre-Babylonian civilization of Sumeria believed that all things existed and were created by the “word” of Enki. In fact, they viewed the “word” of all their gods as a definite and real thing—a divine entity or agent. Even Sumerian personal names reflected their belief in the power of the “word,” including names like, “The word of the wise one is eternal,” “His word is true,” and, “The word which he spoke shakes the heavens.” After the Sumerians came the Babylonians and their creation tale, Enuma Elish (nicknamed by scholars, the “Babylonian Genesis”), which began, “When Heaven had not been named, Firm ground had not been called by name… when no name had been named.” The Hebrew tale arose out of that same milieu.

Added to the ancient belief in the “magic” of “naming” things, was also the belief that the “word” of a ruler or king must be obeyed, and the gods were believed to rule over nature much like kings were believed to rule over their fellow men, i.e., by “divine right.” Therefore, whatever a god said, was “done” in nature. A fragment from Sumeria states, “Thy word upon the sea has been projected and returns not [void].” The Babylonian Enuma Elish, states, “May I [Lord Marduk, the Babylonian creator], through the utterance of my mouth determine the destines…Whatever I create shall remain unaltered, The command of my lips shall not return [void], it shall not be changed.” Compare the Hebrew usage of the same phrase in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my [the Lordʼs] word be which goeth up from my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, For it shall have done that which I desired.”

Divide The Ingredients In Two

It was a common feature of early Greek cosmological beliefs, which they shared with those of the Near East and elsewhere, that in the beginning all was fused together in an undifferentiated mass. The initial act in the making of the world, whether accomplished by the fiat of a creator or by other means, was a separation or division. As the Hebrew myth has it, “God divided the light from the darkness…and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament.”
— W. K. C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy, Vol. I, (Cambridge Univ. Press: 1962)

Ancient tales of creation often involved a division of primeval stuff into two equal halves—like cracking a cosmic egg in two and making “heaven” out of the top half and “earth” out of the bottom half. A Sumerian tale of creation has heaven and earth arise from a celestial mountain split in two. In Egyptian tales a god and goddess are pulled apart: “Shu, the uplifter, raised Nut (a water goddess) on high. She formed the firmament, which is arched over Seb, the god of the earth, who lies prostrate beneath her…In the darkness are beheld the stars which sparkle upon Nutʼs body.” The Egyptians also employed the less mythologized concept of a celestial dome (above which lies “the heavenly ocean”). In the Babylonian Enuma Elish, a water goddess is split in two by the creator to form upper and lower bodies of water, the upper half also becoming a “heavenly dome” that held back vast celestial waters. The Hebrew tale in Genesis has the creator make “a firmament in the midst [middle] of the waters, that it may divide…the water which was below the firmament from the water which was above the firmament.” Both the Babylonian and Hebrew tales continue with the “earth” being created in the lower half of the recently divided waters.

It is interesting to note that the Father of Protestantism, Martin Luther, was adamant that the Bible spoke of waters lying above the moon, the sun, and the stars. He countered the views of astronomers of his day with the words of Scripture:

Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of heaven, below and above which heaven are the waters…We Christians must be different from the philosophers [astronomers] in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity; with our understanding.
- Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Vol. 1, Lutherʼs Works, Concordia Pub. House, 1958

A Hebrew psalm also acknowledged the existence of “waters above the sun, moon, and stars”:

Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him stars of light! Praise Him highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens!
- Psalm 148:3-4

And when the book of Genesis described a “flood” that covered the whole world, and reduced the world to its pre-creation watery beginning, the story states that the “flood gates of the sky” were “opened.” Neither did the author of that fable suppose that all the water above the firmament fell to earth, but that the “flood gates” had to be “shut” to stop more water from falling, and the creator had to promise not to flood the earth again with such waters. So, the Bible agrees with Luther that “the waters above the firmament” remained “up there”—and this agrees completely with ancient tales of creation in which the world arose from a division of waters which encompass creation still, and which the creator keeps at bay, having prepared a place in the “midst of such waters” for the earth.

Make Do With Whatʼs at Hand

Ancient creation accounts never explain where the first “waters,” or “earth,” or “darkness,” came from. Nor do the various creators make everything “out of nothing.” They often have to resort to creating plants, animals and human beings out of the earth or from parts of divine beings. Sometimes this includes molding creatures like a sculptor molds images out of clay—then imparting some magic to them. The Hebrew tale of creation in Genesis is no exception. It does not say where the water and the darkness came from “in the beginning.” Neither does it say that the “earth” was created out of nothing, but simply that “the dry land appeared” after the creator “gathered together the waters into one place.” Moreover, the Hebrew creator does not create vegetation and living creatures out of nothing but has “the earth” sprout vegetation, and “the earth” bring forth living creatures. The Hebrew creator also “formed man from the dust of the earth.” Then “blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being,” kind of like blowing on a clay sculpture to magically bring it to life. Neither was the divine “breath of life” shared only with man, for the same phrase is used in regard to every living creature that the earth brought forth, “all in whose nostrils was the breath of life.” (Gen. 7:21,22)

In the Babylonian tale, Enuma Elish, the creator is called “the god of the good breath [of life],” and he creates man from something divine, the blood of a diety. (Sort of like the Hebrew tale where man is created in the “image” of the divine creator and brought to life by divine breath.) Alternate creation accounts from ancient Babylon have mankind springing up from the ground, or created from the flesh and blood of a god mixed with clay, or even fashioned by the chief Babylonian god with the help of a divine “potter”—not unlike the Genesis account of man being “formed [molded] from the dust of the ground.”

Things Were Created as they Appeared to the Ancient Mind

Another factor most ancient tales of creation share is that things are created as they appeared to the ancient mind. Plants and animals are described as having been created in the forms in which they appeared in the authorʼs own day. The earth appeared like the flat and firm foundation of creation, the sun and stars appeared to move across the sky on a daily basis, the sky appeared like a dome stretched over the earth with a blue color reminiscent of the oceanʼs waters below it, and the sky contained objects whose function appeared to be to “light the earth” below.

In a similar fashion, “days and nights” as measured on earth appeared central to earth-dwelling ancients like the Hebrews, who divided their tale of creation into six “days and nights” of earthly duration. While today, astronomers recognize the earth as one planet among many, each having “days and nights” of their own unique duration.

Moreover, every one of the “six days” of creation in the Hebrew tale is devoted to creating things for the earth alone. Even the “first day of creation” when the Hebrew creator instituted “day and night,” it was an earth-day and an earth-night which were instituted. And on the day when the Hebrew creator set lights in the firmament above the earth, they were created after the earth and “for” the earth—and a day after fruit trees! In fact the entire Hebrew tale supports the idea that naive earth-centered appearances dictated the tale from beginning to end.

Is any Inspiration Required to Account for Ancient Tales of Creation?

The level of inspiration required to explain the origin of naive and simplistic concepts like “earth, wind and fire,” “abracadabra,” “divide the ingredients in two,” “make do with whatʼs at hand,” and, “things created as they appeared”—is equal to the level of mental sophistication of a young child. In fact the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics conducted a study during the 1980s on the mental sophistication of children and discovered that almost one-half of children aged ten years and younger in the United States and other countries believe the earth is flat. And those who say it is round picture “round” as a giant pancake or a curved sky covering a flat ground. One in four thirteen-year olds also believes the earth is flat.
- E.T.B.


“Evenings and Mornings” / “Days and Nights,” were Created Before the Sun?

Genesis tells us that the creator “divided the light from the darkness” and instituted “evenings and mornings.” But He did that “three days” before the “sun” was made! So the sun was kind of an afterthought, and alternating periods of light and darkness were Godʼs primary creations. The book of Job like the book of Genesis, agrees that “light and darkness” do not rely upon the sun, but have their own separate and distinct dwelling-places:

Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof?
- Job 38:19

Therefore the belief arose, especially among Christians, that the light of “day” had no relationship to the light of the sun. Indeed, in the fourth century, Saint Ambrose wrote in his work on creation:

We must remember that the light of day is one thing and the light of the sun, moon, and stars another—the sun by his rays appearing to add luster to the daylight. For before the sun rises the day dawns, but is not in full refulgence, for the sun adds still further to its splendor.
(Hexameron, Lib. 4, Cap. III).

Ambroseʼs teaching remained one of the “treasures of sacred knowledge committed to the Church” right up till the Middle Ages at which time Jews could still be tortured or condemned to death for disputing it! Like all dogmas it inspired subversive humor from those forced to assent to it:

“Which is more important, the sun or the moon?” a citizen of Chelm asked the rabbi (“Chelm” being a village of Jews who lived in the shadow of the Inquisition).

“What a silly question!” snapped the rabbi. “The moon, of course! It shines at night when we really need it. But who needs the sun to shine when it is already broad daylight?”
- E.T.B. (Joke drawn from Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor, Henry D. Spalding, Ed., New York: 1969)


According to the first chapter of Genesis, the earth was created before the sun, moon, and “the stars also” (notice how the “stars” were regarded as mere trifles, lumped together at the end of the inventory). This order of creation is absolutely farcical. Our earth is a child of the sun. The offspring could not have existed before the parent.

The sun, moon, and stars were “made and set” in heaven “to give light upon the earth?” When we look beyond our solar system into the mighty universe of other suns and planets, we see that the cosmogony of Genesis is a dream of childish ignorance. When the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras dared to suggest that the sun was as large as the southern part of Greece he startled his Greek contemporaries. What must have been the notions of a grossly unscientific people like the Jews? For them it was easy to regard the sun, moon, and “the stars also,” as mere satellites of the earth, “set” up in the sky as lanterns for the human race.
- George William Foote, “The Creation Story,” Bible Romances


If the sun, moon, and stars were created “to light the earth,” then why create 50,000,000,000 galaxies whose light is invisible to the naked eye? (The two nearby galaxies that can be seen with the naked eye appear no brighter than two dim stars in our sky.) In other words, 50,000,000,000 galaxies produce light that can only be seen with our most powerful telescopes, and it took a telescope mounted in space to detect 49/50ths of those galaxies! Moreover, each of those galaxies is composed of about 1,000,000,000 stars, some of which are far larger than our sun. God sure did go through a lot of trouble to not “light the earth” with those 50,000,000,000 galaxies, didnʼt He?

Recent astronomical evidence even supports the “dark” matter hypothesis, namely that most of the matter in the cosmos sheds little or no light at all.
- E.T.B.


My older brother Joshua had become “enlightened” at about the age of eighteen and began to argue religious problems with my parents. I heard him say, “All religions are based on old books, but these books were written by men and men can lie, distort the truth, or have illusions. If we Jews donʼt believe in the old books of other religions, how can we know for certain that our books contain the absolute truth?” My parents could never give him a clear answer. All they could do was scold him and call him heretic, betrayer of Israel.

Yes, I began to study the Book of Genesis both with faith and with doubts. In my mind I had formulated many questions for the scribe of this holy book: What did God create first, the earth or the water? Or was the water already there beforehand? When did He create the wind which swept over the waters? And did He also create “the waste and the void?” I had heard that the light of day came from the sun. But according to the Book of Genesis, God created the light first and then the sun.

The more I read, the more questions and doubts assailed me. If God could have created Adam by the words of His mouth, why did He have to cast a deep sleep upon Adam to form Eve from one of his ribs? I have always heard from my parents that God is a god of mercy. But why did He accept the sacrifices of Abel and not those of his brother Cain? Didnʼt He foresee that this would cause jealousy and enmity between the two brothers? And why did He create the serpent to lure Adam and Eve to sin? [“The serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.”—Gen. 3:1]
- Isaac Bashevis Singer, “Genesis,” Congregation: Contemporary Writers Read the Jewish Bible, ed., David Rosenberg


To stretch the chronology of Genesis a bit, creationists are willing to admit there are mini-gaps in the genealogies of Genesis that total several thousand years. But why, if God directly inspired Moses to write those genealogies, should there be any gaps at all?
- A. J. Mattill, Jr., The Seven Mighty Blows to Traditional Beliefs (enlarged edition)


Why Does the Bible Fail to Mention that Creation was Never Really Finished?

According to the Bible, God made the stars on the fourth day of creation. Even more remarkable is the fact that He is creating them still, though the latter miracle is considered not worth mentioning by any of the Bibleʼs authors. (I wonder why? The creation of new stars is being chronicled continually in magazines and journals like Astronomy, Sky and Telescope and The Astrophysical Journal, just to name a few.)

And God is still creating new planets (that continue to form out of rings of matter circling stars—see the above mentioned magazines).

And God is still creating new elements out of simple hydrogen atoms inside stars where atoms continue to fuse and form elements with increasingly more protons and electrons (the heaviest known elements are created during super nova explosions of stars).

And God is still creating multi-cellular organisms out of single cells that keep dividing (embryogenesis).

And God is still transforming mere water and inorganic minerals into more and more living microorganisms that other organisms eat, thus keeping the food chain going, such that all life depends on the daily transformation of the simplest of molecules (water and inorganic minerals) into living microorganisms. So, if you include the “food chain” leading from the simplest organisms to man, God is still turning inorganic matter into human beings (and turning simple oxygen molecules into “the breath of life”).

Yet creationists argue that aside from the creation of new stars and new heavier elements inside those stars—aside from the turning of simple inorganic matter into an array of living organisms that keep increasing in number and branching off into new species—evolution is “prohibited by the second law of thermodynamics.” Iʼd say they are missing the forest for the trees which by the way, continue to grow from tiny seeds; trees that become forests which continue to reach out and envelop as much of the earth as they can, and whose members continue to branch off (forgive the pun) into new species as they do so.
- E.T.B.


Genesis 1:16 depicts the sun and moon as creationʼs “two great lamps,” made after the earth, to “light” it, “rule” its day and night, and, “for signs and seasons” on earth. But a couple thousand years after the Bible was written, astronomers discovered a curious thing. They discovered that Mars has two moons. Yet Mars has no people who need their steps “lit” at night, or who need to read the “signs and seasons.” Even more curiously, it was discovered that Neptune has four moons, Uranus has eleven, Jupiter has sixteen, and Saturn has eighteen moons (one of them, Titan, is even larger than the planet Mercury)! The earth was created with just one; and it “rules the night” so badly that for three nights out of every twenty-eight it abdicates its rule and doesnʼt light the earth at all, at which time we bump into folks in the dark.
- E.T.B.

You might find it interesting. For details, stay posted to my website http://www.designinference.com/
—WmAD

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