Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Respect for Authority

Several months ago a group of thirteen professionally trained astronomers considered formal presentations by two other professionally trained Christian astronomers who presented their arguments on the age of the universe. Each of the thirteen Christian astronomers has earned a PhD. and is currently employed at an educational venue such as Alabama, Arizona State, California, Calvin, Caltech, Chicago, Cornell, Rice, and Valparaiso.

The two presentations were given by Dr. Danny R. Faulkner and Dr. Hugh Ross. Faulkner is physics and astronomy professor at the University of South Carolina and is one of several well-known astronomers promoting a young universe creationist perspective. Ross is a well-known astrophysicist, old universe creationist, and president of Reasons to Believe, a think tank presenting evidence on a wide variety of science/faith topics.

Civility and respect characterized the exchange. In conformity with the professional expertise of the panel, the evidence offered focused on astronomical data, not Biblical interpretation.

Ross's arguments were found by the panel to provide solid evidence that the universe is billions of years old. His view was based on several independent arguments based on a wide range of data. He emphasized the strength of the light travel time argument.

Faulkner, in keeping with the common and accepted scientific practice of looking for holes in well-established theories, presented claims for isolated inconsistencies in the old universe view, but did not actually present evidence for a few thousand-year-old universe, according to the panel's report.

In their final sentence the entire panel stated, "It is our professional judgment that the weight of evidence overwhelmingly supports a universe that is billions of years old."

This group of thirteen Christian astronomers speaks with the authority inherent among scientists when they achieve scientific consensus concerning broad knowledge in a particular field. We may say they speak with authority about conditions in the cosmos, past and present. The created cosmos is part of God's dual revelation: the general revelation of Himself through the cosmos, and the special revelation given to man in the written word, the Bible. They do not believe their interpretation of the cosmos (general revelation), contradicts the information given in the written word of God (special revelation). Correctly interpreted, the two revelations can not contradict one another. Rather, they complement and support one another.

A profound problem occurs when theologians permit their interpretations of the written word (special revelation) to control and drive interpretations of past and present conditions in the physical cosmos (general revelation). That is a formula for disaster. Interpretations in both areas of the dual revelation could be in error as a result.