Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Here Gosse Nothing...

One particularly obnoxious objection against resolving the age of the universe is the attempt to "pasul" it as a Christian idea since this was the approach that the Christian Philip Henry Gosse put for in his work Omphalos.

This is 1000% disingenuous.

Omphalos was, for better or for worse, DOA. It had little or no influence. My experience may be anecdotal but as someone who had an interest in Christian apologetics let me state clearly that I not once did I run into this line of reasoning being utilized by Christians to reconcile the Biblical account of creation with science.

In addition to the obvious ad hominem overtones, it is a fallacy of post hoc ergo proper hoc. While one might argue that one should not (or that traditionalist who take this approach teach that one should not) adopt non-Jewish religious teachings, there is clearly no prohibition against believing something because non-Jews believe it as well. With that in mind there is there is very little reason to believe that Omphalos played a role in this approach being introduced into the Jewish community.

It is not uncommon for two independent, or even competing, people to introduce theories which are, or are nearly, identical. I will spare you the cliche, but when confronted with a problem and given the same body of evidence it is not a novel thing for people to reach the same conclusion independently.

While Judaism does not accept the sola scriptura stance of traditional protestant Christianity, we have noted that it normally requires that a verses plain meaning be retained. Confronted with the same problem, namely the scientific evidence for a much much older universe, there are only so many possible solutions. From liberal allegorization to radical scepticism of science, one can find manifestations of each approach among either Jews or Christians but by far the "Gosse Theory" is the one I have found least likely to be expressed by Christians. I could almost exclude the instances I have encountered of Christians taking this approach to Gosse himself. An independent origin for this approach at reconciliation is as plausible, if not more, than that of borrowing.

This is reflected in my own experience. I had written on the "Gosse Theory", privately at least, before ever having heard the term. While I probably had heard generic assertions that God could create an old looking world, I had never seen this developed into a theory. It was a mere afterthought of those Christians who took a much more dismissive view of scientific opinion. I certainly never saw it argued that apparent age is a logical necessity from the text nor that it meant that one need not dismiss the Science behind evolution or the Big Bang.

In short it is ridiculous to object to an argument which seeks to establish the truth of Torah because it is accepted by Christians as well, especially when there is no evidence to support that the argument was actually adopted from Christians.

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