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Betrayed by Presupposition

Presuppositions can work against our understanding in ways that aren’t usually apparent.  Let’s look at one such case.

The presupposition: Uniformitarianism.  This is the thought that everything as we observe it now is exactly how it worked in the past.  The sedimentary layers in rock are read this way, assuming they were uniformly laid down at regular intervals.  So upper layers are new, lower layers are old (sometimes much older).  All due to processes that have never changed since eons past, operating in the same way in the same amounts of time.

This is a contention of naturalism, and is not strictly held by theists.  There are a few exceptions.  Anything existing by necessity, such as God himself or mathematical constructs, won’t change (even after the Fall).  The quantity of “two” is always “two” no matter what numbering system you use to designate it on paper, and equations will always retain certain patterns and properties.  Though a hexadecimal system will differ slightly from a decimal system, and a binary system from the other two, evident patterns will still emerge in all of them (following from the base number of the system).  The Lord doesn’t change, either; he isn’t blown about by the wind.

The second exception would be universal laws.  These are built into the fabric of reality and thus remain unchanged through time.  This includes moral laws–if it’s wrong to sacrifice a child now, it’s always been wrong to sacrifice a child.  Since some cultures practiced that, it means that moral epistemology sometimes must catch up to moral ontology.

According to the Bible, there are differences between things at the outset of creation verses and things as they stand now, due in a large part to the Fall of Man.  After the Fall, some rules changed (as punishment) and creation took on new ways of functioning.

Which brings us back to uniformitarinism.  This simply isn’t provable.  It is an inherent assumption in the philosophy of science where it pertains to the historical sciences (paleontology, archeology, and evolution).  It holds up to scrutiny, so I’m not dissing it here.  The point I’m trying to make is that is not a scientific fact, but an assumption undergirding many conclusions of cosmogony, paleontology, and evolutionary biology.  Science can’t prove its assumptions, given that many of its most cherished conclusions rest on this particular one.  That would be circular reasoning.

And that brings us to the following tweet:

This is only a problem to those who subscribe to uniformitarianism.  For those who don’t, the universe was a work-in-progress for the six days of creation (however we understand them isn’t important to my argument; I don’t care if they’re 24-hour days, ages/eons, or ceremonial sunrise-to-sunset Jewish holidays).  Which means that, at least for those six days (and perhaps beyond), the rules were different.  Probably not drastically different, but different enough to invalidate uniformitarianism.

The sun (day 4) was created after plants (day 3).  But plants don’t, strictly speaking, need the sun.  They need light, which has been present since day 1.  The source of that light could be questioned, but the fact is that it’s there and it can sustain the plants until God created the sun.

The obvious objection is going to be that there is no source for the light.  Asking me to speculate on the source of the light isn’t going to hurt my argument one bit.  Dealing strictly with the text of the Bible, the all-important light is there, and that’s what’s important.  Deal with that, please; the source of the light is a distraction to the issue (although I’m prophesying that 90% of the comments are still going harp on this point).

Here’s the take-away: the universe wouldn’t be a fully-functioning entity apart from the intervention of God until it was complete on day 6.  God rested on day 7 because the universe was then self-sufficient and could operate on its own.

The only reason to assume that the universe would have functioned fully apart from the hand of God on natural laws alone is uniformitarianism.  So, Mr. Yhwh’s presuppositions as (I presume) a materialist are working against his ability to read the text for what it says.  He wants the sun to be there, and points out that it isn’t, therefore plants die.  However, he neglects the texts that specify that light is there, so his argument is a non-starter.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on July 27, 2011, in God, Philosophy, Theology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think most scientists would agree with the bit about science being based on non-provable presuppositions, I never heard anyone claim it could prove them…it actually doesn’t prove anything, in that sense, though it does provide evidence for a couple things…something is deemed reasonable to presuppose, and one goes about discovering new facts about it…

    Héhé, you might be right about the source of light-comment thing, here I go, commenting on the matter: I see what you’re saying there, but scientists have determined the most likely scenario (for the order of Sun/plant)…they observe stars in different stages of their “formation”…what you are suggesting is that things happened differently in our solar system (just over here), billions of years after the rest of the universe was behaving exactly as it is today (of course, I guess you would answer that that just isn’t true, that the universe WASN’T billions of years older than our Earth (or was but wasn’t operating with its present laws until our indistinguishable corner of the universe was formed), our Solar system, etc, at the time…which might imply that God made everything look like it was that old, trying to fool us…why would He do that?)…I’m just saying that all that IS possible, of course, as you said, scientists haven’t proved (in the mathematical sense) any of their claims…but I’m sure you see why so many people think it’s more reasonable to believe that you’re wrong…you can’t prove that that man knocking on your door dressed like a mailman is in fact a mailman, that the package he’s handing you isn’t a bomb, but it’s the most reasonable thing to believe, so you do…again, no one claimed to be proving anything (in the sense that you require)…

  2. “something is deemed reasonable to presuppose, and one goes about discovering new facts about it”…I meant “new facts with it”, using the assumptions to arrive at new conclusions…

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