Category Archives: Darwin et al

Darwin, especially his geology and implications for faith

COVID-19,Good Friday and the Death of Christ.

Why did a loving God allow the Coronavirus?

Is this actually true?

The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things.

 

cor1

 

Little did we think when we heard the reports from China in January 2020 that within two months virtually the whole world would be in lock-down. I shall not deal with all the medical and scientific issues. But what about issues raised for Christians?

How should a Christian think about such a pandemic? Yes, there have been many in the course of history and the worst in Britain and other countries was the Black Death in the 14th century.

A pandemic raises such questions like;

Why did God allow it?

How can God be good?

Which are all variants trying to understand the WHY of suffering.

Most attempts consider what is called Natural Evil and for long I have wondered whether that is both a misnomer and misunderstands the nature of the universe, or the way the world is. One who has taken it head on is Justin Brierly of Premier Christian Radio in a recent blog. I think his alternative understandings are most unsatisfactory.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Why-doesn-t-God-stop-Coronavirus-and-mend-the-world?fbclid=IwAR3GbGZtQthH_e0F9pbOlvXgojbbrE3h-W8lXRb7TP6BJWRVk0MuR5r3tQ8

The question of God and suffering is one of the oldest questions ever asked and there are no easy answers. Most often the response needed for those who are walking through suffering is our love and care, not our clever theology and philosophy. However, when the time comes for intellectual answers, I believe there are some helpful way to make sense of suffering.

Justin is right on here. There are no easy answers and I wonder if there is ananswer. He is right to say those suffering need love not theology, clever or not. Some are most unclever. As he continues Justin offers some theology, which is focussed on Romans 8 vs 19ff.

The Groaning of Creation

But when it comes to Coronavirus we may be tempted to ask: Why has God allowed death, disease and natural disaster to exist at all? We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world? This question can only be answered by a Christian from within his or her own worldview, and means we must expand our perspective to a cosmic scale.

This is the Fundamental question which is almost impossible to answer – I keep failing on it.

 

Out of Kilter?

The apostle Paul states that “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). The Christian story is that the whole created order is in some sense ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level. Some theologians trace this to human rebellion – an outworking of ‘the fall’ which acts both forwards and backwards in time. Others point to the existence of an earlier rebellion in the angelic realm that sparked a ‘cosmic fall’ (hinted at in Revelation 12:9).

This is dangerous pinning a certain idea on a few verses, especially as they have long been open to different understandings. There are questions on the translation here, but I’ll leave that. What does it means for the whole creation to be groaning?

Is Creation out of kilter?

Is it actually true that creation is ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level.”? Here he seeks to answer

Why has God allowed death, disease and natural disaster to exist at all? We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world?

Justin does not consider that fact that death and natural disaster i.e volcanoes, earthquakes and floods, were there from the beginning of this planet’s history. Further, if he is right that the creation is “out of kilter”, when was the creation knocked out of kilter? We need to ask

 “When?”

“in what ways “

 “and in what ways was it out of kilter a billion years ago, when there were no humans?”

I never had a sense the created order is “out of kilter” whether in my geological work or as I look around me or when I cycle or walk in the countryside. That is not to say humans are not trying to put creation out of kilter, but that is totally different

What Justin is claiming that a Fall, whether of humans in the Garden of Eden or of an angelic Fall, has put the whole cosmos out of kilter. This is not what either Genesis 3 or Rev 12 vs9 state. It is reading into it. It probably has more to do with Milton’s Paradise Lost than the Bible.

I am fully aware that many theologians have argued for one or the other to get God off the hook for suffering, but succeed in attaching God more firmly to the hook, and making Him an ogre. To afflict the cosmos with a Curse because of the misdemeanours of Adam and Eve seems cruel to everyone and everything else.

He claims; “Whatever the origin, the result is a world that is not as it should be.” I have to ask in what ways is the world not as it should be.

If you mean the physical world, nothing has changed in geological time. The physical laws have not changed. Volcanoes are still erupting four billion years on. Yes, I’ve looked at volcanic rocks one or two billion years old. Viruses also keep attaching themselves to other living things as they did billions of years ago, and at times kill their hosts.

However human behaviour is totally out of kilter and often damages the natural world. I suspect the Coronavirus would have stayed in bats if humans had not mistreated them.

 Yet Paul includes the promise that one day “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

What does Justin glean from this?

Everybody has experienced living in the tension of this broken world. The groaning of creation brings both good and bad across our path. The natural laws that operate are both a blessing and a curse. Tectonic plate activity renews the surface of the earth with minerals, yet wreaks havoc when humans build cities on the fault lines. Cell replication allows our bodies to grow and develop, yet can result in cancer when natural processes misfire. Death is a necessary part of the cycle of life, yet still remains our “last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Who says this is a broken world? It is as it has always been. The movement of tectonic plates is just normal and has been going on for billions of years, causing earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.

Why does Justin not accept this?

The Coronavirus is just one more example of the broken world we live in. Life is a God-given miracle of extraordinary engineering and complexity. Yet the physical process of life itself are subject to viruses, parasites, and disease. The “bondage to decay” that St Paul speaks of reverberates through the cosmos.

This is rather high-flown with an appeal to the bondage of decay from Paul. It sounds impressive but what does it mean?

By creating a world of free creatures – both physical and spiritual – God has granted a level of freedom to the whole of the created order. That means that God won’t simply step in and wave a magic wand to take away the suffering in the world. We are part of the problem of evil, and God has chosen us to be part of the solution too.

Where does Justin think the other part of the problem of evil comes from?

Throughout the New Testament we are presented with a worldview of spiritual warfare in which God has chosen his people to be fellow combatants waging a war, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual “principalities [and] powers” (Ephesians 6:12) through our prayer, love and action.

How on earth (literally) does Justin see spiritual warfare in plate tectonics?

God hates Coronavirus

I have increasingly seen that this ‘warfare’ view of reality may help those who have experienced great suffering to understand that God is not the author of their pain. One such person is Jessica Kelley, whom I interviewed about the loss of her four-year-old son Henry to brain cancer as related in her book Lord Willing?.  …….Jessica had come to reject what she terms the ‘blueprint’ view of a God who creates pain and suffering as part of his sovereign plan. Instead she embraced the warfare view, that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God. Although the war was decisively turned towards victory through the death and resurrection of Jesus, there still remains a world of running spiritual battles.  …….. Henry was a casualty in the ongoing battle to redeem a fallen and broken world:……………..

Jessica’s perspective can equally be turned to this present Coronavirus pandemic. God did not will this crisis. Let’s not lay the blame at his door. But he is working through the actions and prayers of those who are seeking to see his Kingdom come on earth.

It is hard to comment on this owing to Jessica’s tragic loss of a child, which I have not had to go through, but to argue “Instead she embraced the warfare view, that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God.” It is very dubious to tie up what he calls natural disasters i.e. volcanoes etc with spiritual warfare..

Are volcanoes, earthquakes, floods caused by spiritual forces in rebellion against God” There is nothing in the bible to support that and is very Manichaean.

Alternative views

Nevertheless, Jessica’s view is controversial to some. Many would object that a God who isn’t in control of the whole show isn’t the God of the Bible.

Why should we ever believe that God is control down to the last detail? It sounds great but it is not true to experience, though many of us experience a general guidance at times, but not at others. Did God really was in control when you twisted your ankle while out on a walk?

Some e.g. Thomas Oard rightly argue that God does not “interfere with and control” his creation, as in his book The Uncontrolling love of God. He extends the idea from Phillipians 2 of Jesus Christ emptying himself to God emptying himself in creation and often letting things be.

 Calvinist theologians believe that God is the author of both joy and sorrow and, even though we may struggle to see it, works through both for his ultimate purposes and glory. They say the warfare view contains too much of the same sort of randomness in suffering that the atheist must contend with. 

For me, I end up with a certain agnosticism in respect of God’s control but the warfare view is both Manichean and tries to divide creation into good (flowers etc) and evil (volcanoes) and makes Christians see everything as warfare and conflict.

Inevitably, different Christians will come to different understandings of how to reconcile God and suffering. What we can agree on is that God is good, suffering is bad, but that his love and purposes will win out in the end.

Yes, but that does not mean we should tolerate what can only be called extreme views – as is the warfare view, or that popular view of the Curse. What we need to agree on is that God is good, even when things are going badly and don’t make sense. That is found in Romans 8 especially the conclusion

Justin states;

The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things.

This is simply not biblical. Just considering the Bible, there is nothing to support “a broken and rebellious Creation”. It is a variation of the Curse mythology which reckons God screwed up a supposedly “perfect “ creation because of Adam and Eve. The Christian Story IS of a broken humanity who are also stuffing up the rest of creation, but only on this planet but not beyond the Solar System, if that. In what ways are meteors, distant stars and planets “broken and rebellious”? Or even birds and bees and even bats and pangolins? Or, dare I say, viruses? The story starts there with humans stuffing up the earth and culminates with Jesus Christ who “unscrews” humanity and reconciles them (2 Cor 5)

If, and a big if, Justin’s is the Christian story then I wholeheartedly reject it as fanciful and absurd. Further it is not the Christian story held by all Christians over the last 2000 years.

The Christian story in its basics is that humans screwed things up and Jesus thorugh his death and resurrection has shown the way to unscrew it. Forget about warfare with volcanoes, or animal predation.

 How should we see God in the light of the coronavirus?

Above all it is wrong to focus on death and suffering as due to Adam’s misdeeds, and neither of Justin’s alternatives make sense. This is the danger of a self-contained biblical argument and not looking at what we know of the world. Any world view which disregards the science is worthless. If we applied that principle to astronomy we would believe in a flat earth and that seeds actually die before they germinate (1 Cor 15). We need to take note of science and especially the history of the earth and the life therein. Here it is in outline

The Universe was formed 13.4 by years ago with the big Bang (which was put forward by a Christian cosmologist Fr G Le Maitre)

The Earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago and since then its surface has been sundered by plate tectonics. There seemed to be no involvement by naughty angels and it was too early for Adam to cause the eruptions.

Life first formed between 3 and 4 billion years ago. The earliest forms were like bacteria with viruses going piggy-back. Thus from then on bacteria were dying and being infected by viruses. We then have the sequence of life and so to vertebrates, dinosaurs, mammals and lastly humans.

This makes it clear that death disease and suffering were there from the beginning and along with volcanoes. The earth is IN kilter.

So it continues today with volcanoes, earthquakes, animals and people dying.

Every so often the earth is hit with something like the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which some implied had a human origin, rather than being natural. Some want to regard the bits which are painful as Natural Evil. That is a wrong term as those things are simply – – – NATURAL.

Can you call this evil – natural or not? It is simply life and the way the world is .Any belief system or worldview which does not accept this is flying in the face of facts.

Here we come face to face with problem of suffering, which comes out so starkly in Covid-19. All living things die, often after getting a disease. Even the fossil record shows that. At times it is accompanied with great pain. It is a problem because it is downright ghastly and we feel it should not be that way We try to rationalise it and often by one of the three put forward by Justin. We are unwilling to say it’s purely natural and believers don’t want to say God did it.

It is a dilemma, which we all seek to resolve. Not all find a resolution which supports faith and many conclude that God cannot allow the suffering and if He did then He must be the Devil. This alone should stop us from coming out with slick answers, which may help us but repel others.

Suffering was a great problem for Charles Darwin as I discuss here

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/parasitic-wasps-and-the-death-of-jesus-with-hat-tip-to-darwin/

What should we say as Christians?

Here we turn to the Christian story – the four gospels, which are odd as they give so much on Jesus’s last week on earth, describing in his public execution in gruesome detail.

As Jesus he died, he shrieked;

Eloi eloi, lama sabachthani!

My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?

There was Jesus, the Son of God, suffering an excruciating death. Imagine those fat, rusty nails hammered through your wrist and ankles. Then being suspended making it almost impossible to breath along with the nails tearing your flesh and broken bone.

The centre of the Christian Faith is on the ghastly death of Jesus and his surprising resurrection. Traditionally Christian have viewed the death of Jesus being purely an atonement without considering that in death Jesus shared human suffering.

Is this an answer?

Yes and no

It is not a simplistic answer.

The Old Testament doesn’t give an answer, but a poem/saga about suffering – the book of Job. Job had suffered badly and all his advisors were useless and then he met God, who asked him if he was present at creation (Job 38 -41). Job realised he did not understand and then trusted God. We can do no more, as we don’t understand as suffering gives no logical explanation and there is no logical explanation for suffering. The message was “trust God”.

This where Moltmann’s insights in The Crucified God are so helpful, as we see that the cross is not only forgiveness and reconciliation but also God in Christ entering into all suffering and shrieking “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?” That is what we often do when suffering hits us. Suffering points to the cross.

That is as far as we can go. There is nothing wrong in saying our understanding is partial, but it is very wrong to think we have understood suffering.

This raises the question whether suffering can be called Natural Evil as it is not Evil but just Natural. Volcanoes are just the normal activity in the earth’s crust. OK, some suffering is caused by the evil of others, but that should never be called Natural Evil, but just Evil. It’s a bit tough if you are being eaten by lion, drowned in a tsunami, or suffering a disease, but this is the fabric of creation. For the record I put my foot four inches from a sleeping Cape Cobra!

Many Christians are unwilling to accept that suffering and “natural disaster” is written into the structure of the earth, and thus what some call “Natural Evil” is simply natural. Many perform theological contortions and bad exegesis to explain evil and suffering. The temptation is to explain it away by an appeal that suffering came in at the Curse when Adam fell, or some angelic fall, or spiritual warfare. I would argue that not only are they bad/heretical/false theology but are liable to have very bad pastoral effects.

First, it results in a Manichean dualism, where everything natural is split into good and bad. An amusing example of this is that when we were in Yellowstone National Park, some visitors asked Rangers why they didn’t remove the bad animals – presumably grizzlies and wolves!! It is unfortunate if your hiker’s bear bell is found in grizzly scat, but that is not because that grizzly is bad. It is unnerving to hike in Yellowstone. This negativity spreads to those who want to kill every “bad critter”, especially insects. So the insect spray is always handy. Why zap every wasp and squish every beetle?

Secondly, this can have disastrous results on the environment as we purge it of everything bad from dandelions (weeds) to daddy long legs.

Thirdly, it can easily create a judgmentalism with a tendency to regard suffering and illness as the penalty of sin. An example is a minister I knew telling the parents of a boy suffering from cancer, that someone had sinned in the family. And then most clergy often heard people who are ill or suffering asking, “Why is God punishing me?”

It is understandable why some may think these things, but that does not make them right. Just think that menstruation was once called the Curse.

What about the Coronavirus?

As said earlier, viruses are part of the natural order and have existed as long as life itself. They cause a vast number of serious diseases in plants, animals and humans. Though they are not evil in a moral sense, they cause disease to all forms of life. Simply considering humans they cause an immense amount of suffering and death.

However the damage viruses cause is often made worse by human behaviour whether innocent, reckless or due to a lack of care for the natural world. It seems likely this coronavirus entered humans from a bat in a live animal market in China. That trade is perverse and criminally evil to animals. It also provides the right conditions for viruses to jump species.

cor2

 

Thus, we can say that the coronavirus is a mixture of the natural and human evil. Were it not for the latter – both the live animal market and the cover –up – we may never have heard of it.

The wildlife trade is repulsive. Ultimately we have say that it and other ways of trashing the environment are immor and evil.  The coronavirus is just one of many examples. If we hold to an Adamic or Angelic Fall, or “spiritual Warfare” we are in danger of not recognising the human sin behind it. It removes the responsibility away from those who caused it – and that includes all of us who mistreat God’s creation in any way.

Now my answer is not definite or clear-cut as it starts from the fact that volcanoes, suffering and death are totally natural and written into all creation, without a malevolent being, human or spiritual, causing them. And most definitely not a God after the Fall.

This, and the need to look after the environment in myriad ways, deals with the more general aspects, but suffering is on a personal level we must go beyond that. We need effective action not explanations. To do this involves risk and sacrifice, which we see in those who are on the frontline in the health services and other vital services today. We have seen some of them die of Covid-19.

No appeal to spiritual warfare or the Fall of Adam or angels is of any value here – except to give an attitude of spirituality superiority, which is neither Christian nor humanitarian. If Christianity is not humanitarian it is not Christian.

Suffering reduces us to a position of weakness and humility. This is a major theme of both the Old and New Testament, even though it is often sidelined in Christendom and revivalism, which prefers Christ as Lord and King rather than servant. It can be argued that the New Testament refers to Jesus as Lord and Saviour  to subvert the demand in the Roman Empire to see Caesar as Lord. How could an executed felon be Lord and Saviour?

So consider this felon. His teaching was a development of the prophetic side of the Old Testament Law with the emphasis on love of neighbour.  Apart from their worship of a different god to most Romans, this became their mark along with their keenness to care for the less fortunate. This put most expressively in the Letter to Diognetus (late 2nd cent?), “They share their food, but not their wives.” Holland discusses it in his chapter (V) on Charity in his book Dominion.

This love and service to others is self-emptying, or kenotic. It is hinted at in Isaiah with his suffering servant; Chap 42 vs 1-9, and Chap 52 vs13 to53 vs12, which forms the backcloth of the accounts of Jesus’ death.

Suffering is emptying. Paul develops that in his appeal to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ in Philippians 2.vs5-8

4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

Yes, I know I left out the resurrection, but my emphasis is on self-emptying love in action here.

His self-emptying is seen finally in the cross and comes out in his putting down of power hungry disciple Mark 10 vs 43-5

43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

As a result when early Christians after Constantine were not involved in politicking and re-inventing the trappings of the Roman Empire, were in the forefront of caring for those in need. This was manifest during the intermittent plagues and more continually in the foundations of hospices and places to care for the sick.

This is probably where the only “answer” to suffering can be found.

Eloi, eloi, lama sabacthani.

Geologists going round in circles!

It’s fairly common to be out travelling to realise you have gone in a complete circle and ended up where you started. Here are two examples of mine. One evening in the Namib desert I needed to get to the main coast road, which lay due west, as quickly as possible. So I left the road and followed tracks. I used the evening star Jupiter to guide me. However I ended up looping the loop, but finally got to the mainroad – in pitch dark of course. Another was hill-walking in the Great Welsh Desert near Rhayader. There the hills go up to 2000ft and are flatish moorland. Up I went and got into thick mist. I was too lazy or daft to use my compass and suddenly realised I’d looped the loop. Out came the compass and soon I was at the summit of Gorllyn, which few ever climb.

It is a favourite argument of creationists that geologists are going round in circles on their principles of dating

Image result for index fossils circular reasoning

That would mean all the stuff about Cambrian or Eocene and all those telephone number ages are utterly, utterly wrong!

If this be true, then Darwin needs the hat in this photo

SH16DARWIN2

I came across this claim of the geological circular argument when I went to L’Abri. Francis Schaeffer’s son-in-law told me as I was a geologist I should read creationist books starting with The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris. As I had heard of it , I said it was nonsense which did not go down well!! Well, I read and lots of others and have an excellent library of creationist books.

The_Genesis_Flood

Reluctantly, as I was stuck high on a Swiss Alp, I sat down and read The Genesis Flood. It was a hard and frustrating read and at first I found it difficult to contradict. I was angry, as if it were true , then all my geological education and work in the field was based on falsehood.

I wasn’t happy with his discussion on uniformitarianism and catastrophism, but my history of geology  was almost non-existent then. I ground my way through the book and getting crosser and crosser. Then I got to the bottom of p134, where he argued that relative geological age dating was a circular argument assuming the truth of evolution.

He cited a long gone geologist R H Rastall

Image result for index fossils circular reasoning

I thought , What the…? as I knew neither Morris’ or Rastall’s claims were true.

My reason for that, was that I had worked in a large area of Pre-cambrian sediments in the Richtersveld of South Africa. It was unknown territory as the only previous geologists were Rodgers who went there on a horse in about 1914 and De Villiers and Sohnge who spent several seasons there  in the 40s. (Sohnge was lucky not to meet his end in 1970 when he was a passenger in my LandRover. I was pointing out some geology and drove off the road and down a bank!!)

The Richtersveld was a fantastic remote mountainous desert and hardly anyone lived there. I was out in this every day looking at rocks with temperatures up to 100. The cacti were incredible and snakes were common.

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To over -simplify the geology of the Richersveld was thus;

The oldest rocks, the Kheis, were ancient metamorphic rocks, gneiss etc

Above them the Stinkfontein, a succession of conglomerates and sandstone, with a few lava bands

and at the top was the Numees Tillite, which was a bit below the Nama and other strata which were known to be Cambrian.

Last of all were some plutons, which cut the older rocks and if memory serves me right were dated at about 470-500 my.

Apart from one stromatolite I found there were absolutely no fossils. Since then I found out that a sequence of Ediacara suite of fossils were discovered close by. I often wonder if I walked over them as that would have been life-changing – finding the first Precambrian fossils in Africa!

I ended up  mapping about 1,000 sq mls at 1 in to 1 mile scale and superficially looked at an area three times that size. With some other geologists we popped over north of the Orange River into the Sperrgebiet, which was verboten and carried a heavy fine if caught!

Back to the geology. I had to work out the order of deposition i.e. construct my own geological column of the area. De Villiers and Sohnge reckoned the Stinkfontein were equivalent to quartzitic rocks in the Witwatersrand and thus 2 to 2 1/2 billion years old. I  promptly rejected that and reckoned the Stinkfontein were much younger and akin in age to the Torridonian sandstone of the Northern Highlands , thus reducing their age by a mere 1,500,000,000 years.  Over a year or so I worked out this Pre-cambrian geological column from the basal conglomerate of the Stinkfontein up to the glacial Numees Tillite

Image result for numees tillite

Image result for stinkfontein formation richtersveld

 

and loads of stuff in between. I worked out most of the order but had many gaps. I was pleased that a young German geologist, Kroner, who came to the area at the same time, came to the same conclusion after his geological blitzkreig, as opposed to my Tommy-like slow infantry slog!! Essentially my column is roughly what is the accepted one for the Richtersveld today, but foolishly I never wrote it up for publication.

Most days I went up one valley  and over the top and returned down another valley. Often there was the same succession in both valleys. I slowly pieced the geology together. By the end of the day I’d usually run out of water and got thirsty. Often I saw a bright green patch in the dry valley. I knew it was water, but half the time it was brackish! When I got back I drank a glass of water supersaturated in salt!

In all I was there a bit over a year.

Here is a recent column from 2011, some 40 years later. Like me, they had no fossils to help them but they never went round in a circle.In fact it shows that both Kroner and I got some things wrong – and Kroner and I disagreed in 1970! I’ve only just found this and it was fascinating to see what I got right and what I didn’t.

Image result for precambrian strata richtersveld

As I looked at some of the recent papers I could see how the whole understanding of the geology and especially the historical order of strata i.e. a Geological Column of the Richtersveld had been developed in the last 100 years.

I wonder how many Creationists can explain that diagram. It obviously needs to be read with whole chapter!

The developing story is rather like the working out of the Welsh Cambrian  Ordovician and Silurian and the Devonian of Devon and Cornwall from 1831 to 1850.

So with my Richtersveld experience in mind I knew Morris was utterly wrong.

I had devised a Geological Column of a vast thickness of strata covering a few thousand square miles and two billion years.

So without a fossil, how did I do it.

It was essentially the Principle of superposition , where in a heap the stuff at the bottom got there first i.e. the oldest, and the stuff on top the last, i.e the newest. This principle was put forward by Steno (later a Bishop)  in the 1660s and is as obvious (from gravity) as it is essential in geology. Bricklayers don’t start with bricks at roof level but at the bottom!  You are right to say they start at the bottom , unless there clues they did not.

To understand how it worked out, take this Cross-section and put the numbered rocks (either strata or igneous 2,3) in order of emplacement

 

Now do it if all were laid down in the Flood.

 

There was a lot of geological work all over Europe in the 18th century with glimmerings of putting strata in historical order  and we got the terms of Primary  (oldest) Secondary and Tertiary. They also realised that the earth was ancient – whether they were Christian, desit or indifferent.

In about 1780 Rev Prof John Michell* of Cambridge, who did pioneering work on earthquakes wrote a friend, but did not publish, an order of strata. Here it is with modern names on the RHS ;

Chalk                                                                                          Cretacaeous

Golt (Gault)

Sand of Bedfordshire

Northampton and Portland Lime                                        Jurassic

Lyas (Lias)strata

Sand Newark                                                                            Triassic

Red Clay of Tuxford

Sherwood forest  pebbles and Gravel                               Permian

White sand

Roche Abbey and Brotherton limes

Coal strata of Yorks                                                               Carboniferous

Michell had got it essentially right. It was based on a coach trip from Cambridge to Yorkshire. You could probably retrace his route today within a mile or two.

Then in the 1790s William Smith around Bath and Cuvier around Paris did careful work and often used fossils as markers as some fossils are only found in certain strata. Cuvier was a superb anatomist so had a great understanding of what creature the fossil was from. Smith was a canal engineer and no anatomist and identified fossils from memory rather than anatomy.

This shows how index fossil are used. The trilobite in A is good as it is not found elsewhere, so if strata have that trilobite , you know its age. The spiral shell – turritella – is less useful as it’s found all over the place. Using fossils like this was and is empirical and not from “theory” as you need to know what layers a fossil is found in so you can use it.

Image result for index fossils

In the 1790s as he began his work Smith thought the earth was 6000 years old, but his mentors – local vicars Richardson* and Townsend *- persuaded him the earth was ancient!! However questions of the age did not affect Smith’s order of strata which he worked out as he travelled England and Wales. He seems to have used a mixture of Steno’s superposition and index fossils .

However evolution was anathema to both Cuvier and Smith.

and so Smith worked out the order of English strata, which si essentially the same as today’s understanding

Image result for william smith strata

Smith  drew a cross section from Snowdon in Wales right across to London, with the oldest on the left (He called what is now Cambrian and Ordovician Killas). Anyone familiar with British geology will identify the various coloured “bands” and give them a modern name. BTW in 1963 after climbing Snowdon I cycled home to just south of London and followed almost the route of the cross-section. It took about 5 days and was 300 miles but I climbed Cadair Idris en route. In the middle is a hill by Cheltenham (yellow – Jurassic), which is Birdlip Hill and very steep!!

 

Image result for william smith strata

Image result for william smith strata

And so in 1815 Smith produced his maps and knew nothing about evolution. I have a copy of it – but a reprint. Its accuracy amazes me.

Image result for william smith strata

Sadly publishing the map bankrupt poor Smith and he ended up in a debtor’s jail.

Here is a more recent one from the British Geological Survey.

Image result for geology of england and wales

There was much to do after Smith’s map! Briefly; from 1831 Sedgwick* and Murchison (who pinched Tom Lewis*’s ideas) sorted out the killas i.e. the Cambrian to Silurian, first in Wales and later further north. Sedgwick and Murchison fell out big way! Sedgwick was the good guy!

In the early 1840s several geologists sorted out the complex Devonian in Devon and Cornwall.

From 1830 Lyell worked out the Tertiary strata which he called Eocene, Miocene and Pliocene at the suggestion of Whewell*.

Mortenson and AIG allege that Deep Time is atheistic. In the paragraphs above all Anglican Clergy are marked with  * – several were Evangelical. So much for there atheism.

Thus well before Darwin published The Origin of species  in 1859 the Geological Column was elucidated without even a whiff of EVOLUTION. Creationists often call it the Evolutionary Uniformitarian Column, but as Sedgwick et all were old earth creationists and catastrophists it should be called the Catastrophic , Creationist Column!

In 1860 Richard Owen, who opposed Darwin included this geological column in a book. All done with no evolution and this no circular argument.

Image result for richard owen strata

This shows how geological dating was worked out without evolution.

Here’s a modern column with humour.

(Michell’s column went from 66my to 323my.)

column+temp

Henry Morris was just plain wrong.

His weakness was a very poor grasp of both the history of geology and geological methods. Sadly some practising geologists, like Rastall, were also confused! Many scientists are good at their science but not at explaining their methods.

 

Perhaps I didn’t fall for Morris’s inexactitudes as I had worked in the Precambrian, dating rocks without any fossils. I never liked fossils at university so that is why I chose mining rather than oil!

Henry Morris’s misrepresentation has been refuted many times but is usually ignored

Here is one by Prof Van der Fliert in 1969

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/the-genesis-flood-a-revue-in-1969of-the-creationist-pot-boiler/

And it’s still put about as by his son John, who has a Ph.D. in engineering geology

The son won’t correct it

Image result for index fossils circular reasoning

Lesser creationists like Kent Hovind spits it out in his lecture and then his acolytes think it’s true.

This comes from one of his standard lectures

Image result for index fossils circular reasoning

Even today people fall for and use the meme incessantly on social media.

One would have thought that after 60 years of being corrected this whopper would be dropped , but it is still going strong

I am often told I should believe Exodus 20 vs11, but my response is that Creationists  should obey Exod 20 vs 16.

Below are some photos of Carboniferous Bowland Shales

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Two superb unconformities, one in the Black Hills and the other unknown!

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Darwin’s geology; An Ordovician syncline in wales

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Dipping Silurian shales/slates with an arkosic band

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What do interlocking ‘coincidences’ say about the reliability of the NT? | Psephizo

I get fed up with those who say the Bible has no historical reliability.  I am not one who says it is an infallible source of history, especially the Old Testament.

Here Lydia McGrew is interviewed about her arguments for the reliability of the Gospels (and I’d add Acts) from the “coincidences” or minor details which are almost asides. This is discussed in her book Hidden in Plain View. and  The Mirror or the Mask. (available Amazon)

 

I was intrigued to see that some ideas came from William Paley’s Horae Paulinae, which Darwin read while at Cambridge. (He did not read Natural Theology (my copy is 1804 so is 5 years older than Darwin) for many years but that is another story.) Darwin was very taken with Paley’s  Evidences of Christianity, which I have in a battered copy from 1841, by which time Darwin had moved from the Christian Faith. Darwin even wondered about discovering more little evidences to support the reliability of the NT while at Cambridge, but that faded from his view!.

That’s enough from me , so read the interview.

I probably need to read the book, and to my list of unread books!!

On a personal note I met both Lydia and Tim McGrew in Wisconsin at an Intelligent Design conference, when I gave a paper considering ideas from Paley’s Natural Theology  in relation to geology.

Perhaps there is more to pursue on Paley and the New Testament.

 

 

Source: What do interlocking ‘coincidences’ say about the reliability of the NT? | Psephizo

The Pleistocene is not in the Bible — A critique of “When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History?”

An excellent article by Kevin on how Creationists twist the Ice Ages only yo last a few years, rather than multiple one over 2 million years.

Kevin exposes the crassness of their arguments.

For myself decades ago I worked on the Numees Tillite, Precambrian glacial sediments  in a remote part of the Namib Desert and then researched the discovery of glaciation in North Wales by Rev William Buckland and Darwin. A fantastic project in the mountains

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/darwins-boulders/

Now read his article

https://geochristian.com/2013/04/09/the-pleistocene-is-not-in-the-bible/?fbclid=IwAR2DTlzlCl4YmtI-8arMaOs2wDvOknxFLSqhcht7WatxvGy-fJmEr87SLnc

GeoChristian

Answers_ice_age_largeYoung-Earth creationists (YECs) attempt to squeeze most of the geological record into the brief span of Noah’s flood, even though the Bible does not state that the flood was responsible for Earth’s sedimentary rocks, and does not even require that the flood covered the entire Earth (read more here and here). There is an important exception to this, however. Glacial sediments and other deposits of the Pleistocene Epoch—the “ice age” —are usually considered to be post-flood deposits by YECs.

Answers in Genesis recently published an article by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled “When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History?” It begins with a true statement:

“The Bible doesn’t say, ‘And then there was an Ice Age.'”

If the authors had stopped right there, they would have written a great article. The Bible does not teach us about ice ages any more than it teaches us…

View original post 3,877 more words

Darwin and the last of the Aboriginal Tasmanians

One of horrors of colonialism was the treatment of aboriginal Tasmanians as within a century their culture was destroyed. It was a moral blot on the British empire. No one should feel comfortable reading about this. (or smug  that they are totally anti-racist now.)

I confess that I have not delved into this as much as is needed as it raises so many moral issues both how we consider our past (Brits on empire, Americans on slavery) and where we are today when we often wish to claim the moral high ground.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aboriginal_Tasmanians

Last of the Tasmanians Woodcut 6 - Wooreddy.jpg

Even Sir John Franklin, later to die in the Arctic, found himself in an impossible position when he went to be Governor of Van Diemens Land in 1837 a year after Darwin paid a flying visit.

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/franklin-sir-john-2066

untitledjohn-franklin-northwest-passage-z

On his Arctic travails see;

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/sir-john-franklin-great-explorer-and-evangelical/

A few decades later all aboriginal Tasmanians of solely aboriginal descent had gone photo in 1860s. Today thousands from Tasmania claim some descent from aborigines. (Thanks to John Clarke for pointing out my error.)

Thus the demise of aboriginal Tasmanians is an excellent of finding a rod to beat Charles Darwin with , who visited Hobart from 5th to 17th February 1836 while on the Beagle. The rod is, of course, to accuse Darwin of racism and what better example than this.

Charles DarwinImage result for beagle voyage tasmania

Here is what he wrote in his Voyage. He cites the many problems  and how things had turned vicious both by settlers and natives. I am sure some looking for racism will find it here.

All the aborigines have been removed to an island in Bass’s Straits, so that Van Diemen’s Land enjoys the great advantage of being free from a native population. This most cruel step seems to have been quite unavoidable, as the only means of stopping a fearful succession of robberies, burnings, and murders, committed by the blacks; and which sooner or later would have ended in their utter destruction. I fear there is no doubt, that this train of evil and its consequences, originated in the infamous conduct of some of our countrymen. Thirty years is a short period, in which to have banished the last aboriginal from his native island,—and that island nearly as large as Ireland. The correspondence on this subject, which took place between the government at home and that of Van Diemen’s Land, is very interesting. Although numbers of natives were shot and taken prisoners in the skirmishing, which was going on at intervals for several years; nothing seems fully to have impressed them with the idea of our overwhelming power, until the whole island, in 1830, was put under martial law, and by proclamation the whole population commanded to assist in one great attempt to secure the entire race. The plan adopted was nearly similar to that of the great hunting-matches in India: a line was formed reaching across the island, with the intention of driving the natives into a cul-de-sac on Tasman’s peninsula. The attempt failed; the natives, having tied up their dogs, stole during one night through the lines. This is far from surprising, when their practised senses, and usual manner of crawling after wild animals is considered. I have been assured that they can conceal themselves on almost bare ground, in a manner which until witnessed is scarcely credible; their dusky bodies being easily mistaken for the blackened stumps which are scattered all over the country. I was told of a trial between a party of Englishmen and a native, who was to stand in full view on the side of a bare hill; if the Englishmen closed their eyes for less than a minute, he would squat down, and then they were never able to distinguish him from the surrounding stumps. But to return to the hunting-match; the natives understanding this kind of warfare, were terribly alarmed, for they at once perceived the power and numbers of the whites. Shortly afterwards a party of thirteen belonging to two tribes came in; and, conscious of their unprotected condition, delivered themselves up in despair. Subsequently by the intrepid exertions of Mr. Robinson, an active and benevolent man, who fearlessly visited by himself the most hostile of the natives, the whole were induced to act in a similar manner. They were then removed to an island, where food and clothes were provided them. Count Strzelecki states, 196 that “at the epoch of their deportation in 1835, the number of natives amounted to 210. In 1842, that is, after the interval of seven years, they mustered only fifty-four individuals; and, while each family of the interior of New South Wales, uncontaminated by contact with the whites, swarms with children, those of Flinders’ Island had during eight years an accession of only fourteen in number!”

It seems racist but Darwin was commenting on a hellish situation. However it is easy to make a Victorian a racists by our standards of 2020, especially if we are woke.

Yet Darwin, along with ALL his family and the Wedgewoods had a long tradition of being anti-slavery going back to his grandparents. Charles Darwin fulminated against slavery and when he was revising the Voyage for a second edition, he had an argument with Lyell over slavery. Lyell had just returned from the USA and defended slavery. Charlie was irate!! Thus, possibly in a state of moral indignation, add this to the account of his departure from Brazil.

180px-charles_lyell

Darwin may not pass the woke test on racism, but this and his other actions and comments on slavery shows him to be non-racist, and a person of very high moral principles.

On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have stayed in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master’s eye. These latter cruelties were witnessed by me in a Spanish colony, in which it has always been said, that slaves are better treated than by the Portuguese, English, or other European nations. I have seen at Rio de Janeiro a powerful negro afraid to ward off a blow directed, as he thought, at his face. I was present when a kind-hearted man was on the point of separating forever the men, women, and little children of a large number of families who had long lived together. I will not even allude to the many heart-sickening atrocities which I authentically heard of;—nor would I have mentioned the above revolting details, had I not met with several people, so blinded by the constitutional gaiety of the negro as to speak of slavery as a tolerable evil. Such people have generally visited at the houses of the upper classes, where the domestic slaves are usually well treated, and they have not, like myself, lived amongst the lower classes. Such inquirers will ask slaves about their condition; they forget that the slave must indeed be dull, who does not calculate on the chance of his answer reaching his master’s ears.

Yet some comments made by Darwin on “other races” have long been used by Young Earth Creationists to show how wicked Darwin was and thus the theory of evilution is evil and racist.

Darwin’s Body-Snatchers?
Recently John van Wyhe, a Darwin AND Wallace scholar at the National University of Singapore wrote an article in   Endeavour Vol. 41 No. 1 p29-31 entitled “Darwin’s Body Snatchers” He began his paper with;

For decades creationists have claimed that Charles
Darwin sought the skulls of full-blooded Aboriginal
Tasmanian people when only four were left alive. It is
said that Darwin letters survive which reveal this startling and distasteful truth

Following up his references was difficult as they seem to have undergone some mutations!

The main one in the Australian-based Creation Ministries International (CMI) is by Carl Wieland

https://creation.com/darwins-bodysnatchers-new-horrors

Which says

Darwin [allegedly] wrote asking for Tasmanian skulls when only four full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigines were left alive, provided his request would not ‘upset’ their feelings.

I am afraid the original CMI article from 1990-2 seems have gone extinct and I can only find edited versions. In the nearest article I could find it claims that the article is based on ;

Monaghan, D., ‘The body-snatchers’, The Bulletin, November 12. 1991, pp. 30–38. (The article states that journalist Monaghan spent 18 months researching this subject in London, culminating in a television documentary called Darwin’s Body-Snatchers, which was aired in Britain on October 8, 1990.)

which ends with a later P. S.

Note added by author Feb. 2017: I was just made aware of a short (Dec. 2016) article by a Discover blogger, in which it was reported that when the (non-creationist) author Monaghan, whose work this article reports on, was asked to justify the existence of this alleged letter by Darwin, he was unable to and in fact seemed to back away from it. So in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the account must be regarded as apocryphal. Note that the blogger attempts to distract from the horrors for Australian Aboriginal people reported (and fairly widely acknowledged overall) that were unleashed by the ideas of Darwin (who, as indicated in my book One Human Family, was personally the antithesis of the image of a racial supremacist), by mockingly suggesting that this article implied that Darwin was personally responsible for the Tasmanians’ extinction. But even this incorrectly reported item about ‘Darwin’s letter’ made it clear that when he made his alleged request, their extinction was well under way, with only four left alive. The blog item was also wrong in its claim that the word ‘upset’ in this article was a direct quote when it was clearly in single quote marks, which as examples in the first few lines of my article already show were used not for direct quotations, but as indicating either ‘scare quote’ or ‘definitional’ usage. The blogger also gives a link to this article (prior to this addition), but not on the CMI website; rather, a republication of it as a pdf (without permission)—perhaps to minimize any risk that readers would be influenced by all the other information and evidence on creation.com. Nonetheless, I appreciate the opportunity to correct misinformation—CW.

So much for the
extraordinary claims about Darwin, or followers at his
behest, snatching the corpses of the tragically dwindling
Tasmanians. So rather than body snatchers, what we have
here is a case of snatching at straws.

Not so much clutching at straws but the partaking of an infinite number of pork-pies

Anyway, better than reading my comments based on a cursory look read van Wyhe’s excellent brief paper. It sums up the usual problem of those who approach Darwin with an agenda, as, in the process of their research, facts with mutate  or go extinct

 

Darwin’s Body-Snatchers?
John van Wyhe

 For decades creationists have claimed that CharlesDarwin sought the skulls of full-blooded Aboriginal
Tasmanian people when only four were left alive. It is
said that Darwin letters survive which reveal this startling and distasteful truth. Tracing these claims back to
their origins, however, reveals a different, if not unfamiliar story.
As a Darwin scholar, I thought I had heard all the myths
concerning Charles Darwin but one of my students surprised me with one that was new to me. She had been
debating evolution with a Christian creationist friend who
told her that Darwin was partly responsible for the extermination of the Aboriginal Tasmanian people! This startling claim had the apparent sheen of credibility because it
was accompanied by a purported quotation from a letter by
Darwin. Could this be true? As the Director of Darwin
Online it is my responsibility to track down any unrecorded
appearance of unique Darwin words in print, especially
those made during his lifetime. I had no record of this one.
Here is the quotation I was sent: ‘Darwin wrote asking
for Tasmanian skulls when only four full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigines were left alive, provided his request would
not ‘upset’ their feelings.’ This quotation turned out to
come from a creationist newsletter from 1992.1 Although
it attributes only one word to Darwin himself, it suggests
the existence of a real Darwin letter to this effect and only
the word ‘upset’ was quoted from it. If this were true, then
the letter must have been written around the 1860s when
there were only four known full-blooded Tasmanians left
alive, including the well-known individual named Truganini (c. 1812–1876), who was supposedly the last survivor.
As I dug a little deeper, the scale of this creationist claim
became apparent. Indeed the full quotation above is given
in many creationist books, articles and websites.2 T

Carry on reading here;

http://darwin-online.org.uk/people/2017,%20John%20van%20Wyhe,%20Charles%20Darwin’s%20body%20snatchers.pdf

 

 

St John Henry Newman, Patron saint of Evolution?

This week my fellow Orielensis John Henry Newman was made a saint by Pope Francis.

In the period 1820 to 1840 Oriel college, Oxford led intellectuals in Oxford and in the Church of England, with leaders like Copleston and Whately. This is given a fiar comment by wiki on Oriel

In the early 19th century, the reforming zeal of Provosts John Eveleigh and Edward Copleston gained Oriel a reputation as the most brilliant college of the day. It was the centre of the “Oriel Noetics” — clerical liberals such as Richard Whately and Thomas Arnold were fellows,[17] and during the 1830s, two intellectually eminent fellows of Oriel, John Keble and John Henry Newman, supported by Canon Pusey (also an Oriel fellow initially, later at Christ Church) and others, formed a group known as the Oxford Movement, alternatively as the Tractarians, or familiarly as the Puseyites. The group was disgusted by the then Church of England and sought to revive the spirit of early Christianity.[18][19] Tension arose in college since Provost Edward Hawkins was a determined opponent of the Movement.[17

Now my preference is for Copleston and the noetics whereas I am sure Mary Moritz prefers Newman and friends !!!! However I have always valued Newman’s writings and had to study his Lectures on Justification (1838) for my degree. He was quite critical of evangelicals of his day and I reckon his ideas are now expounded by scholars like N T Wright and Michael Gorman, where justification is not just the one-off event but part of continuing participation in Christ. Popular justification ends up with what Dylan Thomas described as “got drunk on saturday and saved on sunday”. no wonder the Welsh chapels fizzled out. My favourite quote from Newman’s book is about what he calls Popular Protestantism (forerunner of fundamentalism?) where “the bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants.” I.e. centred on the bible , including Judges 11, rather than Jesus.

Am I a heeretic?

Newman was a friend to science and Mary Moritz an Austrian scientist and Roman Catholic has written this excellent blog which I have lifted

Mary has an excellent blog of her own https://sciencemeetsfaith.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/saint-bonaventure-wisdom-on-genesis/ and has three blogs on Newman

https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/a-patron-saint-of-evolution/?fbclid=IwAR13Os9UmI8GyL62zxyCRpxf7Krm1ambHP7gy1ZhGzeHPJLVad5XS3hlJso

A Patron Saint of Evolution?

I mean that it is as strange that monkeys should be so like men with no historical connection between them, as the notion that there should be no course of history by which fossil bones got into rocks.
—St. John Henry Cardinal Newman

John Henry Newman, one of the most consequential Catholic theologians of modern times, was canonized in Rome on October 13. Newman was born in London in 1801 and raised in the Anglican faith. He studied at Oxford and was ordained to the Anglican ministry in 1825. Several years later, with a group of friends, he started what became known as the Oxford Movement, an attempt to bring the Anglican Church closer to its Catholic roots. The movement aroused fierce opposition but had great and lasting influence within both Anglicanism and the Catholic Church.

Newman experienced many hardships, difficulties and disappointments and over time felt himself drawn more and more towards Catholicism. In 1845, after thorough study of the early Church’s history, he entered into full communion with the Catholic Church and two years later received priestly ordination in Rome. Newman said of his conversion, “it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.” In 1849, he founded the first Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham, where he remained, except for a brief period, until his death in 1890. In 1879, he was named Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.

My first encounter with John Henry Newman was reading his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, a spiritual autobiography he wrote in 1865 as a defense against attacks upon his personal integrity and the sincerity of his religious beliefs. I found it as fascinating as St. Augustine’s Confessions. Both men, each in his particular circumstances, describe their intrepid search for the Truth and testify to God’s redemptive and merciful love. Newman’s search for God’s truth, light and guidance is also masterfully described in the poem “Lead Kindly Light,” which he wrote in 1833 and which became one of the world’s most beloved hymns.

A few years after encountering the Apologia, I discovered Newman’s contributions to the dialogue between science and faith. John Henry Newman was a theologian and clergyman inside and out, but already as an undergraduate he developed an interest in the sciences. He carefully wrote out and kept his notes from a course in mineralogy—they are still at the Birmingham Oratory. He was less impressed by geology, even though that course was given by the same professor, Rev. William Buckland. In the early 1820’s Buckland defended the thesis that the earth had passed through several catastrophic geological events, the last being a global flood as described in Genesis.

But by 1830 Buckland had abandoned this view and adopted the hypothesis of a great continental glaciation event. The idea that the earth was of vast antiquity had been proposed by James Hutton and others in the late 1700’s, and further developed by Charles Lyell. These ideas were well-known to Charles Darwin, who began his career as geologist, and played a role in his development of the theory of evolution. They also influenced Newman, who learned to consider scientific theories and innovations with a degree of caution.

Truth Can’t Be Contrary to Truth

Newman dedicated two of his lectures as rector of the Catholic University in Dublin in 1851/1852—later assembled in his book The Idea of a University—specifically to the relationship of theology and science. A certain tension between science and theology may lead some to wait for the day when science overthrows revealed truths. It may cause others, mainly the religious minds, to fear scientific progress, and, in Newman’s words, “to undervalue, to deny, to ridicule, to discourage, and almost to denounce, the labours of the physiological, astronomical, or geological investigator.” However, Newman explains why this fearful attitude is unjustified:

The Physicist tells us of laws; the Theologian of the Author, Maintainer, and Controller of them; of their scope, of their suspension, if so be; of their beginning and their end. This is how the two schools stand related to each other, at that point where they approach the nearest; but for the most part they are absolutely divergent.

Newman answers the question of truth with an impressive picture: distinct fields of inquiry form distinct “circles of knowledge,” distinct “worlds” of their own, though ultimately comprising one Truth. He compares this with God’s immensity. God is One, but:

. . . any one of His attributes, considered by itself, is the object of an inexhaustible science: and the attempt to reconcile any two or three of them together—love, power, justice, sanctity, truth, wisdom—affords matter for an everlasting controversy. We can apprehend and receive each divine attribute in its elementary form, but still we are not able to accept them in their infinity, either in themselves or in union with each other. Yet we do not deny the first because it cannot be perfectly reconciled with the second, nor the second because it is in apparent contrariety with the first and the third.

We may say with words written by Hans Urs von Balthasar around one hundred years later: “Truth is symphonic.” Newman tells Catholic scientists and theologians:

If [we] have one maxim in our philosophy, it is, that truth cannot be contrary to truth; if we have a second, it is, that truth often seems contrary to truth; and, if a third, it is the practical conclusion, that we must be patient with such appearances, and not be hasty to pronounce them to be really of a more formidable character.

Moreover, if we know our Catholic faith, this will provide us with a sense of security and a peace of mind:

I say, then, he who believes Revelation with that absolute faith which is the prerogative of a Catholic, is not the nervous creature who startles at every sudden sound, and is fluttered by every strange or novel appearance which meets his eyes. He has no sort of apprehension, he laughs at the idea, that anything can be discovered by any other scientific method, which can contradict any one of the dogmas of his religion . . . He is sure, and nothing shall make him doubt, that, if anything seems to be proved by astronomer, or geologist, or chronologist, or antiquarian, or ethnologist, in contradiction to the dogmas of faith, that point will eventually turn out, first, not to be proved, or, secondly, not contradictory, or thirdly, not contradictory to anything really revealed, but to something which has been confused with revelation.

The application of these principles had solved the case of the Copernican system and of Galileo Galilei to everyone’s satisfaction. But while Newman wrote these words, new trouble was brewing: Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Before we turn our attention to the theory of evolution, let us look at Newman’s views on “design” in Nature.

I Believe in Design Because I Believe in God . . .

Unduly melding science and theology while trying to find “intelligent design” in biology, and from there proceeding to the inference of an “Intelligent Designer,” was and remains to this day a great temptation not only for theologians, but also for believing scientists.

In 1802, William Paley published the book Natural Theology: or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. In it, he proposed his famous watchmaker analogy: if a pocket watch is found in a field, it is most reasonable to assume that someone dropped it and that it was made by a Watchmaker; or, in other words, where we find design there must be a designer. This Design Argument for God’s existence (a version of the so-called Teleological Argument) became quite popular in Victorian England. The argument was further developed in the Bridgewater Treatises a series of books funded by the 8th Earl of Bridgewater and planned as a major work in natural theology to explore “the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation.” Most of its authors—all established clergymen and theologians, some of them also scientists—explored Paley’s Design Argument in various scientific fields.

It should be noted that in the English-speaking world, the Design Argument is sometimes confused with Thomas Aquinas’s version of the Teleological Argument. Paley finds design in what might be called the craftsmanship found in complex and purposeful structures, whereas the emphasis in St. Thomas was more upon a general directedness of natural things and processes towards “ends.”

John Henry Newman felt deeply uncomfortable with William Paley’s Natural Theology for three main reasons:

  1. He saw it as reversing the order of understanding. He wrote in 1870: “I believe in design because I believe in God; not in God because I see design.”
  2. It leads to an incomplete notion of God. In the same 1870 letter, Newman argues, “Half the world knows nothing of the argument from design—and, when you have got it, you do not prove by it the moral attributes of God—except very faintly. Design teaches me power, skill, and goodness, not sanctity, not mercy, not a future judgment, which three are of the essence of religion.” In 1852, he said that the “God of Physical Theology [i.e. natural theology] may very easily become a mere idol” rather than the God of Christianity.
  3. Although Paley knew of grief and pain, his Natural Theology paints a happy world. Design, as he describes it, does not leave any space for natural evil, nor for moral evil in a world encompassing the reality of sin, and the need for redemption. We need revelation, says Newman, because the mystery of moral evil, the reality of our sins, can only be elucidated by the mystery of Christ’s Cross. Without revelation, theology would not be in a better shape than it was with the Greek philosophers: it would be unable to answer the question of theodicy.

Furthermore, Charles Darwin had admired Paley’s book in his youth, but during his voyage on the HMS Beagle, he started to realize that nature was not “nice” at all, that there was a constant struggle for survival. In 1860, Darwin wrote:

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [parasitic wasps] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.”

He drifted more and more into agnostic views as he grew older. I would have liked it if Darwin could have read what Pope Francis says in Laudato Si’:

Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator. God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs. His divine presence, which ensures the subsistence and growth of each being, “continues the work of creation.” The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship”

Evolution Isn’t Inconsistent with Divine Design…

Charles Darwin pondered many years on the theory of evolution, fearing the repercussions of publication. Only when Alfred Wallace submitted a paper with very similar findings, did he decide to move quickly. The theory of evolution via natural selection was stated in 1858 in a joint paper of Darwin and Wallace and, in 1859, Darwin published The Origin of Species.

Newman never analyzed Charles Darwin’s theory in depth, but it was “in the air,” and Newman responded when specifically asked about it. His answers were cautiously positive. And it seems that he was well prepared to discuss the topic. In his book On the Development of Doctrine, written fourteen years before Darwin’s Origin of Species, Newman referred favorably to the 18th century English theologian Joseph Butler. Butler had pointed out in The Analogy of Religion that God operates in the very same manner in the history of Nature as in the history of Christianity:

The Author of Nature appears deliberate throughout His operations, accomplishing His natural ends by slow successive steps. And there is a plan of things beforehand laid out, which, from the nature of it, requires various systems of means, as well as length of time, in order to the carrying on its several parts into execution. Thus, in the daily course of natural providence, God operates in the very same manner as in the dispensation of Christianity, making one thing subservient to another; this, to somewhat farther; and so on, through a progressive series of means, which extend, both backward and forward, beyond our utmost view. Of this manner of operation, everything we see in the course of nature is as much an instance as any part of the Christian dispensation.

When Newman used the word “design” it was not Paley’s notion of it, but what he called “divine design.” He sees “divine design” as God’s Wisdom “to have given certain laws to matter millions of ages ago, which have surely and precisely worked out, in the long course of those ages, those effects which He from the first proposed.” He therefore considers that “Mr. Darwin’s theory need not, then, be atheistical, be it true or not; it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of Divine Prescience and Skill.” God’s action is permanently present, he works in and through his creation. Newman can therefore say that he did not think “that ‘the accidental evolution of organic beings is inconsistent with divine design—It is accidental to us, not to God.”

Darwin was closer to Newman than to Paley on laws in nature and on secondary causation. He wrote,

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.

Nonetheless, a key distinction between the two men’s thinking is that Darwin did not share Newman’s notion of a world under the providential care of a God to whom nothing is accidental, a conviction that was deeply engrained in Newman’s mind and soul.

On the question whether Genesis and the theory of evolution would contradict each other, Newman considers the verse “All are of dust” (Eccles 3:20) and concludes: “yet we never were dust—we are from fathers. Why may not the same be the case with Adam? . . . I don’t know why Adam needs be immediately out of dust—Formavit Deus hominem de limo terrae [“God formed man from the dust of the earth” (Gen 2:7)]—i.e. out of what really was dust and mud in nature, before He made it what it was, living.”

Newman was one of the first theologians (together with Rev. Charles Kingsley and Rev. Frederick Temple, both Anglicans) who were positive voices acknowledging that Darwin’s theory did not contradict the Christian faith. Newman’s view is still relevant today and may be well summarized with the words of Benedict XVI in his first homily as pope:

Only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.

Conclusion

Saint John Henry Newman was truly a saint in his life as priest, pastor, and teacher. He was searching for the truth, no matter the costs and hardship it would entail. His wisdom deserves to be further explored. He lived in a society that was turning increasingly secularist, not unlike our own in the 21st century. If Newman had lived in our time, he probably would have appreciated the Society of Catholic Scientists. He knew about the challenges but also about the beauty to be witnesses of our faith in the scientific world. He would have exhorted us, as he did in his time:

I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity . . . I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, [and] what are the bases and principles of Catholicism.

EDITORIAL NOTE: This article is part of a collaboration with the Society of Catholic Scientists (click here to read about becoming a member). You can ask questions and join a wider discussion about this piece at the bottom of this page where the original version of this essay, “Saint John Henry Newman: A Co-Patron for Scientists?” is published. Those who wish to read more by Dr. Moritz may go to her blog Science Meets Faith and her Facebook page of the same name.

zzzs

Dinosaurs and Dorset Knobs

This week a local somerset paper published an article on the discovery of an ichthyosaur in about 1850. It turns out the man’s forbears dug it up in about 1850 and then buried as it upset his Christian faith.

The story of unearthing it again is fascinating, but toe comments on the religious issues almost suggests that the reporters had possibly drunk too much of Mr Temperley’s cider brandy.

To me, this story is interesting as it is an example of how so many people think that the church opposed every branch of science in the past and especially the most ungodly study of all – fossil dinosaurs.

Hence I scrape away the choss and other deposits from their historical howlers. and apologies for a not very accurate title, but the title in the paper is not attention-grabbing

Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News

 

Somerset cider firm boss who unearthed century old family secret has put it on display for first time

26th September 2019

ON DISPLAY: Julian Temperley with the fossil

Read the original article;

https://www.burnhamandhighbridgeweeklynews.co.uk/news/17930223.somerset-cider-firm-boss-unearthed-century-old-family-secret-put-display-first-time/?action=success#comments-feedback-anchor

A MAN whose Victorian ancestors buried a stunning fossil because it threatened their religious beliefs has had it dug up and put it on display for the first time ever.

Cider brandy maker Julian Temperley knew that a 90 million-year-old ichthyosaurus fossil was buried in the garden at his family’s home in Thorney, Somerset.

His god-fearing ancestors had kept it hidden away for years after its discovery in 1850, worried they would be ‘denying God’ by flashing it around.

I’d like to know on what grounds he says this. He says it was about 1850, when the vast ages of geology and exciting fossils like dinosaurs were known to the “common man” and accepted by most Christians, except for some belonging to separatist chapels.Few in the Anglican , Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist or Congregational Churches would have had a problem. In fact in Dorset you’d have to be aware of them through the work of Mary Anning and others.

Image result for mary anningImage result for mary anning

But flooding forced Julian to dig it up for good recently and after paying £3,000 for it to be cleaned he’s now having its image printed on his bottles of cider brandy.

He said: “Whenever we visited Somerset as kids, we dug it up and were generally amazed.

“But after the flooding of 2013-14 we realised it was not a good idea to leave it buried and I thought we ought to look after it.”

He said he had seen a TV programme about David Attenborough digging up an ichthyosaurus with professional fossil collector Chris Moore at Lyme Regis.

He added; “So we took our fossil down there to be cleaned and Chris said it was one of the best he’d ever seen.

“The teeth are still there in the enamel form after 90 million years, which is pretty good.

“We will now keep it on the wall of our cider brandy bond where it will be part of the family history.

“An image of the Temperley ichthyosaurus will also go on the label of our next 20-year-old cider brandy.

“Putting it with ageing spirits seems like the right thing to do.”

Julian said the amazing relic – worth more than £15,000 according to eBay – was first discovered by his ancestors.

This is simply not so. Mary Anning first discovered it three decades earleir and got leading geologists like the Revs Buckland and Conybeare to look at it.

BucklandImage result for william conybeare

 

He said; “It was found either by William Philosophus Bradford or John Wesley Bradford – my great-great-grandfather or his father – in around about 1850 in their lime quarry at Pitsbury near Langport.

“Not only were the two men founders of the now well-known Bradford’s builders’ merchants but they were also ardent Christians back in times when Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution’ had yet to hit the streets.

See what I said above. In 1850 most ardent Christians would accept ancient dinos and believe the Bible!! This is especially so among educated Christians and all the popualr edifying science and Christianity books of that time.

Here are 7 papers dealing with this at length

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/09/26/does-geology-destroy-god-genesis-and-geologyseven-papers/

“They dug up sedimentary rock and burned it for the lime – and it was while they were digging in the quarry that they came across the ichthyosaurus. They took it home and buried it.

“You have to remember that fossils weren’t really explained until Darwin came along.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Darwin was a genius but not that much! Fossils were first explained at length by Hooke  and many others in the 17th century. By 1800 many fossils were known and understood. The next fifty years saw an explosion in knowledge of fossils and Charles Darwin, simply joined in the fun as he did with megatherium in Brazil in 1832.

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megatherium

 

“Up until then, if you believed in fossils you were denying the Bible saying God created Day One, and so on.

This is the standard diet of those who imagine Christians had a problem over fossils. A handful did, but tried to explain them as being deposited by Noah’s Flood.

315500_393800870693304_2100848630_n

(This is not quite true!!)

“It’s not the sort of thing you’d have flashed around because your local vicar wouldn’t have been that educated and wouldn’t have understood what it was.

Many local vicars were very well-educated, like Henry Moule a vicar near Dorchester and the inventor of the dry-earth closet. In the 1850s his care of parishioners suffering from cholera was heroic. He is immortalised in Thomas Hardy’s Under The Greenwood Tree as the new vicar who insisted on baptising with water and not his spittle.

“No sooner had he got here than he found the font wouldn’t hold water, as it hadn’t for years off and on; and when I told him that Mr. Grinham never minded it, but used to spet upon his vinger and christen ’em just as well, ’a said, ‘Good Heavens!  Send for a workman immediate.  What place have I come to!’  Which was no compliment to us, come to that.” (Chap II Meeting of the Quire)

Across the border in Devon was Henry Lyte who spent so much time in dank caves looking for fossils that he gave himself a mortal illness and awaiting death wrote “Abide with me”.

That’s ignoring all the clergy who came to see Mary Anning at Lyme Regis for her fossils, notably William Buckland and William Coneybeare.

In fact if many clergy were not looking for beetles or other natural history they were into rocks and fossils and many papers in the Proceedings of the Geological Society  in the middle decades were by clergy. With the professionalisation of both clergy and scientists that had stopped by 1900 and I don’t think the Geological society published anything by a vicar  (i.e. in charge of a church) until 2007.

 

“So, I can imagine that for the Bradfords it was an interesting thing that you buried and kept to yourself.

“Eventually, Darwin came along and convinced people that fossils weren’t anything to do with Satan.”

This is an old chestnut! It is often claimed that Christians thought the devil had planted fossils to deceive them and lead them away from Christ. I have never found an example of this or an actual reference to it. They may just possibly be one example. I consider it just a silly story made up to ridicule Christians and then used as such by those to lazy to do any historical research.

The ichthyosaurus was a marine reptile which lived approximately 200 million years ago during the Jurassic period.

At least they are right on this and corrects the original 90 million years, so I’ll conclude by giving them credit for this.!!!!

So I’ll finish here.

ararat_or_bust

 

 

N.B. A Dorset knob is a hard dry savoury biscuit which is now produced by only a single producer, for a limited time of the year. Dorset knobs are made from bread dough which contains extra sugar and butter. They are rolled and shaped by hand. They are baked three times. They are made in Morecombelake near Lyme Regis betweeen Chideock and Charmouth on the Jurassic Coast. We spent many holidays there as a child and always bought a few large tins of them!

N.N.B. Knob has many different meanings , but here I mean the reporters have taken the biscuit!