to the ridiculous (answersingenesis)…

By Alison Campbell 04/04/2011


The internet is a strange place – not least because it makes easier to stumble across such strange juxtapositions as PZ’s sublime posting on killling and a strange and ridiculous piece by AIG (Answers in Genesis) that lays the blame for the Noachian flood on earthquakes (& I have to thank Ted for pointing me at the latter).

No, seriously. Apparently (in this strange parallel universe) “Japan’s earthquake proves Noah’s flood”. (The link is to the SeriousSensuous Curmudgeon’s post on this – I have no wish to drive up AIG’s web traffic!)

Inside this world-view the terrible March 11 quake (& its associated tsunami) are ‘small’ – I’m sure the thought that it could have been much worse is comforting to those affected. Supposedly huge earthquakes leave behind the evidence of their own existence in ‘superfaults’ – unfortunately most geologists would beg to disagree. (This ‘quakes cause faultlines’ is eerily reminiscent of a claim by our own ‘Moon Man’.) And if one ‘small’ earthquake-generated tsunami could do so much damage, think how much greater the harm from (& I quote) ” the barrage of tsunamis generated by continuous, worldwide earthquakes during the year-long Flood of Noah”…

And there was me thinking it was all due to 40 days & nights of rain…

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(Edit: & I hope the Curmudgeon will forgive me for getting the name wrong. I blame the i-pad’s spellchecker running unchecked!)


0 Responses to “to the ridiculous (answersingenesis)…”

  • For your reference:
    (Genesis 7:11) In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

    The flood waters were due to rain but also sources from under the earth. It’s easy to imagine, within the biblical framework of course, that there could have been incredibly destructive earthquakes associated with this.

    Of course, you’re probably being facetious, but I wouldn’t want to see you ignorant of the appropriate details.

  • Well heck, Sam, of course I’m being facetious. In the face of a document that claims humans lived to 600 & more, it’s not really possible to be mcuh else.
    Sources from under the Earth? Where, exactly, is/was all this water supposed to be stored. (I say ‘is’ as it must, in the Biblical worldview, have gone somewhere.) Geology has given us a pretty good handle on the internal structure of our planet & I’m afraid there aren’t any ginormous reservoirs of water down there.
    The Genesis stories aren’t science.

  • Sam,

    I’d have thought that what matters isn’t what the bible says in this context, but how AIG’s claim stacks against evidence. (I realise you’re pointing out where they got their ideas from, but the article Alison links to already makes it clear: the article quotes AIG quoting the same passage, etc.)

    In any event, when we’re talking about a six hundred year old man (who ‘lived’ to 950-odd years) we already know the story is allegory before we get around to thinking about earthquakes 😉

    The flood waters were due to rain

    I seem to think that the ‘water from the heavens’ was actually ring of water around the planet, which we now know not to be the case. It might have been a plausible explanation in it’s day, perhaps, but either way wouldn’t it be a good example of how unreliable old explanations of science can be, whether they are from religious texts or not? Which, in turn, is a bit of hint that taking old texts as ‘the truth’ without looking to current evidence is rather unwise.

  • Hey Alison and Grant, just wondering about these comments:

    “In any event, when we’re talking about a six hundred year old man (who ‘lived’ to 950-odd years) we already know the story is allegory”

    and

    “In the face of a document that claims humans lived to 600 & more, it’s not really possible to be mcuh else.”

    Are this a scientific statement, and if so, why?

  • As Grant says – those making the extraordinary claims need to provide the evidence in support. Currently there is no scientific evidence (from lifespans of current & previous Homo species and from other large mammals) to support the suggestion that humans might live for more than 600 years.

  • We have recorded observations in historical documents. But it’s probably too much of a stretch to ask that someone believe the bible without first believing in God…

  • Citations please! Which verifiable historical documents (not the Bible) support the idea that humans have lived to such extreme ages in the past?

  • We have recorded observations in historical documents.

    Words on their own are anecdotes, as I was saying on the other thread; anecdotes on their own aren’t proof. Evidence and testing might help, anecdotes will only leave you with a hypothesis that needs evidence and testing to resolve.

    (Independent complementary accounts would help, but would still leave the question of the source of the different accounts, which bring you back to the core problem of evidence & testing.)

    In any event, the idea of Moses literally living to a ripe old 950 is, to be very polite, rather unlikely. Care to first demonstrate that this is possible before considering it? You could explain, for example, how Moses managed to avoid the built-in ageing scheme teleomeres give – without getting cancer.

    But it’s probably too much of a stretch to ask that someone believe the bible without first believing in God…

    Trying to dismiss others with a circular ‘exception’? That’s poor logic to say the least. (If you think it through I think you’ll find this logic works against you.)

    You say you teach – what subject?

  • Ok, so it appears that Alison and Grant can both make dogmatic claims, without evidence, and when challenged fall back upon:

    well, it’s unlikely this could happen, or

    special evidence is required, or

    what about built in aging.

    To be fair, if you make the claim, then you need to bear the burden of proof. So again I ask, where is your ***evidence*** that these people did not live long lives?

    If you wish to resort to skepticism as evidence, then you of course could not object to creationists being skeptical of your claims also without evidence.

  • So again I ask, where is your ***evidence*** that these people did not live long lives?

    The several million observations of people never living past ~120? It’s a terrible idea to consider a claim without looking at the background information that we have, given how extraordinarily unlikely it is that anyone could live that long, you need some extraordinary evidence to support the claim.

    If you wish to resort to skepticism as evidence, then you of course could not object to creationists being skeptical of your claims also without evidence.

    Skepticism isn’t evidence, it’s a position informed by evidence. Creationists rather miss out the evidence step.

  • OK, let’s play this game. The fact that we’re discussing Noah suggests that this is a young-Earth creationist story. That would place these supposed people & events somewhere between 6000 & about 4000 years ago (which itself goes against everything that modern physics, chemistry & geology tell us about the age of the Earth). There is no evidence from burials (physical examination, chemical profiles etc) from 4000ybp that humans lived anything like the lifespan claimed for Moses or Noah.
    But we didn’t make the original claim about these putative ages – that’s in the Bible. Hence my request for independent evidence of their accuracy.

  • misterbeanie,

    re well, it’s unlikely this could happen, well, is is unlikely—given the distribution of ages in the population it would be, well, fantastical*—and I did point you to a reason; you have a trail to follow, so you can’t point at me for this. (* and there is such a thing a reasonably assuming people know the obvious.)

    I did point to the source of the what about built in aging, so you can’t point that – you’ve got a trail to follow that I pointed to. Way you go, no-one is stopping you following it.

    To be fair, if you make the claim, then you need to bear the burden of proof. So again I ask, where is your ***evidence*** that these people did not live long lives?

    Erm, you have this upside-down and backwards. Others made the claim that Moses would live to this age. As I wrote earlier, go and ask them why they’re doing that – we’re not the ones who made the original claim. From your own words, they carry the burden of proof – not us.

    If you wish to resort to skepticism as evidence, then you of course could not object to creationists being skeptical of your claims also without evidence.

    Leaving aside that “skepticism as evidence” is nonsensical, I did point to one reason; you have trail to follow, etc.

  • Alison,

    First, your comment about citations outside the Bible … do you apply this standard to the works of Plato and other writers of antiquity? Or just to the Bible? Do you pick and choose your texts on reason or simple prejudice?

    Second, you say there is currently no scientific evidence of old ages. I read what you wrote about water previously in the same vein. You are wrong about this and the “science” of this was reversed in the 80s. When I get time I will quote the source text for you. So, yet another example of science says A, then saying not-A. Why then should I trust your current claim.

    David, this is an inductive fallacy. I’m sure we all agree that things are different today than they were in the past. I have no good reason to disbelieve the Bible in this instance and you are not helping me lose my faith. Perhaps you could critique this page and tell me why it is wrong:

    http://creation.com/living-for-900-years

  • In the second comment on this page Alison wrote:

    “Sources from under the Earth? Where, exactly, is/was all this water supposed to be stored. (I say ‘is’ as it must, in the Biblical worldview, have gone somewhere.) Geology has given us a pretty good handle on the internal structure of our planet & I’m afraid there aren’t any ginormous reservoirs of water down there. The Genesis stories aren’t science.”

    From H2O – A biography of Water by Philip Ball

    “And indeed, most geologists believed until the late 1980s, that the deep earth is a dry place. But recently that belief has been challenged in dramatic fashion. Some researchers now think there may be enough water hidden in the earth’s bowels to refill the oceans __________ times. The water would be locked up in crystal lattices of hydrous mantle minerals.”

    Q. What does __________ represent?

    A. Thirty.

    Back to you Alison.

  • David, this is an inductive fallacy.

    No, it’s not. The fallacy of induction is trying to move from observation to certainty (Poppers example, even though he’d been to NZ and seen black swans was 1. All the swans I’ve seen are white 2. All swans are white)

    But inductive reasoning, in terms of probability, is perfectly reasonable (call in inference if you’d rather). Given what we know about the world, someone living to 900 hundred is very unlikely. You’d need amazing evidence to prove that someone did, and “It says so in the bible” doesn’t quite make the grade.

    (Aristotle said flies have 4 legs, and Homer described a “wine coloured sea” Is that enough evidence to make you think flies used to have 4 legs, or that the sea used to be red?)

    Oh, and your link is kind of funny. There argument seems to be that there is genetic variance for longevity, therefore shortened lifespan could have evolved in the last few thousand years. How do you think they’d react to the claim that there’s genetic variance for intelligence in modern societies, so human intelligence could have evolved over the last several thousand years?

  • misterbeanie

    ” The water would be locked up in crystal lattices of hydrous mantle minerals.”

    The key word here is locked up. If you are going to suggest that such water could have been available to flood the world could you please supply a scientifically valid mechanism for how this water was unlocked from these hydrates?

    Although having said that, I really do wonder why it is necessary for Bible believers to have to justify anything. An all powerful god should be able to make large quantities of water appear and disappear at will. Surely if you believe in such a god there is no need to rationalise anything?

  • First, your comment about citations outside the Bible … do you apply this standard to the works of Plato and other writers of antiquity? Or just to the Bible? Do you pick and choose your texts on reason or simple prejudice?

    Yes of course I’d apply the same standard to Plato & other writers of his time. See David’s comments above.

    you are not helping me lose my faith.

    Well, I never set out to do that in the first place :-) I was pointing out that trying to justify the ‘accuracy’ of biblical text on the basis of things like the Sendai quake is not a scientifically valid way to do things. It is, indeed, faith-based.

  • Misterbeanie asks if Plato would be subjected to the same standard of scrutiny as the Bible. The answer is emphatically yes. Plato, for example, is the earliest source we have for the legend of Atlantis, and most people with a scientific background would consider his account highly unreliable.

    As for the Carl Wieland article he links to, it provides no evidence that humans did actually live longer in the past. It merely tries to make a case that such a thing may have been so. Wieland’s case is considerably weakened by the fact that even bacteria, once thought to be ‘immortal’, grow old and die. Wieland acknowledges this in an edit, without admitting the impact it makes on his argument. Everything ages and dies, and humans already have long lives by mammalian standards. There is no reason to suppose, outside of the Bible stories, that people ever lived for longer than they do today. As others have said, if someone makes the claim that people once lived to 900 years or more, they need to supply some form of independent supporting evidence.

  • “As for the Carl Wieland article he links to, it provides no evidence that humans did actually live longer in the past.”

    Would anything short of a miracle serve as sufficient evidence? A mathematical model perhaps? Photographs?

    According to the skeptics on here, the Bible must be a priori unreliable (for reasons unbeknown to me).

  • misterbeanie, we’ve already said that we apply the same sort of scrutiny to other ‘ancient’ authorities as we do to the Bible. Independent corroboration, that sort of thing. The Biblical claims about longevity are unreliable, not on an a priori basis, but because there is no independent evidence to support them.
    Now, how about responding to some of the specific statements that have been made here in response to your comments?

  • Michael,

    I was responding to this claim by Alison:

    “Sources from under the Earth? Where, exactly, is/was all this water supposed to be stored. (I say ‘is’ as it must, in the Biblical worldview, have gone somewhere.) Geology has given us a pretty good handle on the internal structure of our planet & I’m afraid there aren’t any ginormous reservoirs of water down there. The Genesis stories aren’t science.”

    Whether the water is now locked up in minerals or not is irrelevant. What Alison said was plainly false. As I noted, according to very recent research there is an abundance of water inside the earth.

  • Alison,

    There are many things in this life that we believe in the absence of corroborative evidence. Science is just one way of obtaining knowledge, and all ways require the use of faith at some level. If you disagree, then please give a counter example.

    I doubt that it is humanly possible to give you the evidence you require regarding the old ages of ancient humans. Perhaps there is no scientific evidence outside of the Bible.

    Even a miracle would probably be insufficient because your worldview would probably reinterpret a miracle as natural phenomena. In other words, no evidence could possibly convince you other than divine revelation.

    I am going to read this next:

    http://www.reasons.org/long-life-spans-adam-lived-930-years-and-then-he-died

  • Misterbeanie, all individual sources of information, not just the Bible, are a priori unreliable. We can gain increased confidence in an information source if other sources corroborate it. There is virtually no other information source corroborating Plato’s account of Atlantis, for example, so we don’t regard it as very trustworthy.

    Science is not just another “way of obtaining knowledge”. Science is a process in which we constantly check our information, and refine our understanding of the world based on what we find. Scientific understanding changes (evolves?) over time. Other “ways of knowing”, to use the New Age phrase, are much more resistant to change, and this is a weakness, not a strength.

  • Misterbeanie,

    “Whether the water is now locked up in minerals or not is irrelevant.”

    No, it is not relevant. If it is not available, i.e. locked up in hydrates then it cannot be considered a source for flood water, unless of course you can provide a mechanism for how it was available.

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